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THE SITUATION ROOM

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Addresses the United Nations General Assembly

Aired September 19, 2006 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, it's 7:00 p.m. at the United Nations where Iran's president is only moments away from addressing the General Assembly. He's gone full speed ahead with the suspect nuclear program. Will he now dare the world to do something about it? We'll bring you Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech live this hour.

President Bush offers a vision of peace to the world's Muslims and to the Iranian people, but he warns Iran's leaders have consequences for their defiance.

And he led a secret gay life as the governor of New Jersey until it all erupted in scandal. Now that former governor, Jim McGreevey, goes public about his private affair.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York where we're awaiting the Iranian president's speech at the United Nations. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, high drama on the U.N. stage where Iran's defiant president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to speak at the U.N. General Assembly in the next several moments. We're going to carry his remarks live this hour, remarks that could push some dangerous buttons in his nuclear standoff with the West.

CNN's Jack Cafferty and our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux are standing by. First though let's go to CNN's Aneesh Raman. He's outside the United Nations, to set the stage for these dramatic words we're about to hear. Aneesh, you've spent lots of time in Iran in recent weeks, give our viewers a sense of what we can expect.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We cannot, Wolf, expect dramatically controversial statements like we've heard from Iran's president before, that Israel should be wiped off the map, that the Holocaust was a myth. Instead he is likely going to soften his tone. When I was in Iran a few weeks ago, every day leading up to that August 31 deadline his tone became softer. He spoke about Iran not being a threat to the world. In one instance referencing Israel by name, something he rarely does, saying Iran is not a threat to them either. He will speak of peace; he will speak of dialogue. He will speak of Iran's defiance, continued defiance to pursue what it maintains is a peaceful civilian nuclear program. His audience here are not Iranians.

They're not those angry on the Muslim streets of the U.S. who he talks to in other settings. His audience here are Americans and the world community at large and Iran's president feels pretty good about how things are going. They've already defined a U.N. deadline and nothing has happened. Instead dissent has grown within the world community so he will give more fodder to European countries who are cautious about issuing sanctions, more reason for pause, more reasons essentially for them to say look Iran wants to talk. Iran wants peace -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is it an opportunity that he has right now assuming he does what he wants to do to divide the international community as far as Iran and tough sanctions are concerned? Is that what he's trying to do?

RAMAN: Yes, he's trying to do that. He will also though likely talk at length, I would assume about the United States and about the West and its role in the Middle East. President Bush today really didn't speak at length about Iran. He locked it in with Sudan, with Syria speaking directly to the people. President Bush doesn't want Iran and the U.S. to be on an equal playing field.

Iran's president eagerly wants exactly that. He wants engagement, so he'll try and placate fears about Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon, deny that's the case. But he will also say that Iran is a regional power in the Middle East. Iran needs to be taken seriously. The world has to engage with it and that Iran is integral in what's happening there. He wants the world to respect Iran's past, its present and where it is heading and where it is bringing the Middle East along with it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh, stand by, we're going to be getting back to you. We're standing by to hear from the president of Iran momentarily. He'll be coming up to the podium. We'll have his remarks live. People all over the world will be watching and listening.

When President Bush stepped up to the podium earlier today he avoided an all-out nuclear confrontation while steering clear of his adversary from Tehran. Let's bring in our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's here in New York tonight with the president -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Bush certainly is not going to be in the audience to listen to Ahmadinejad's speech, but you can bet that his advisers will be listening very carefully to what he has to say this evening.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): It was billed as a heavyweight match. In one corner, the man representing what Iran calls the great Satan. In the other corner, a leader of what the U.S. calls the axis of evil, but as it turned out the two were never in the same ring. They did not even bump into each other in the busy hallways. Anticipating President Bush would single out Iran during his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a no-show for the public scolding.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

MALVEAUX: But the tone of Mr. Bush's address to the international body and specifically to Iran was noticeably more measured compared to years before. Four years ago the president warned the General Assembly the U.S. would go to war with Iraq with or without the U.N.'s approval. Now he highlighted the diplomatic track he's taking with Iran.

BUSH: We look to the day when you can live in freedom and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.

MALVEAUX: The president's address was the culmination of a series of speeches in a P.R. campaign.

(SOUNDS)

MALVEAUX: Aimed at taking the focus off the unpopular Iraq war and on to the broader war on terror, Mr. Bush's speech on spreading democracy was targeted directly to the people of the Middle East.

BUSH: We must support the dreams of good and decent people who are working to transform a troubled region.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush specifically called on the international community to support the fledgling democracies in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. But is the president's audience still listening? Some political analysts believe the Bush administration's foreign policy particularly the war in Iraq, has contributed to the chaos in the Middle East. And the president has little credibility on the world stage.

FREDERICK BARTON, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC AND INTL STUDIES: One of the dangers for President Bush is that he has not really established an international audience and he does not have a group of people who really find him credible and -- globally.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is meeting with her European counterparts to discuss where to go next with Iran. It should be noted that, of course, the Europeans have quietly already been talking to the Iranian regime trying to coax it to cooperate, downplaying the Bush administration's possibility of pushing economic sanctions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much, Suzanne Malveaux reporting for us.

And I'm going to be speaking with President Bush. I'll be asking him some tough questions about Iran, Iraq, in a rare one-on-one interview. That interview tomorrow right here in the in THE SITUATION ROOM. And what would you ask the president? You can tell us. Go to CNN.com/SituationRoom, anxious to hear what you would ask the president if you could.

Jack Cafferty is here in New York. He's joining us as he always does. You're looking forward to hearing momentarily from the president of Iran.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I wonder if it was an accident that Ahmadinejad wound up in what is almost primetime on television in the United States. My hunch is it's not accidental that he was scheduled at this time of the evening.

BLITZER: He wants a big audience. He really wants to speak.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: And he wants to talk to the American people about whatever his position on all of this is. The International Atomic Energy Agency has a disagreement with the United States on the intelligence concerning Iran and whether or not they're close to being able to produce weapons-grade uranium. The IAEA says they're nowhere near that.

The intelligence that the Bush administration has gathered suggests maybe they're closer than we think. Nevertheless, the president is not budging. He insists the U.S. will not cooperate with Iran until it stops enriching uranium and until then, the only talks going on are as Suzanne mentioned among Iran, France, Germany and Britain and the Europeans say that they're making some real progress in those meetings with Iranian officials.

President Bush says the U.S. will push for sanctions if Iran doesn't comply with the U.N. resolution calling on it to suspend its nuclear program, but it's not clear at all. The United States could get enough international banking -- backing, rather, for sanctions and meanwhile, the U.S. Navy reportedly is updating its plans on how it would supply war ships and troops if an attack is ordered against Iran.

It's all pretty scary stuff. Of course, there's been that rumor in the background for a long while that there are military options being considered if Iran doesn't come around to our way of thinking. The question is this. Why won't the United States talk to Iran? It doesn't cost anything. E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: I suspect one of the biggest problems the president of the United States and his administration have right now is the credibility factor given the mistakes -- the mistake in intelligence that led to the war in Iraq.

CAFFERTY: Well "this whole thing is like deja vu all over again", to quote Yogi Berra. We're getting one set of intelligence from the IAEA, the inspectors who have been there and have some scientific expertise in assessing this and another set of intelligence from I think it was the House Intelligence Committee that put out a report suggesting in a photograph byline that there was a picture of the Iranians enriching weapons-grade uranium. IAE says they're not even close to being able to do that and then the House Intelligence Committee's report said that well that picture was meant to imply they're working in that direction, not that they had already gotten there.

BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from the Iranian leader. We're going to take his remarks live once he walks up to that podium at the U.N. General Assembly. Is there any one thing, Jack that you're going to be paying attention to that you want to hear that you're going to be listening for?

CAFFERTY: I just -- I'm curious to how he handles his increased stature, if you will. I think that Ahmadinejad has played whatever his cards are extremely well in this showdown, if you will, with the president of the United States. He has allowed this deadline to pass. We don't have the votes at the U.N. to impose sanctions. He is a player in the Middle East.

He did that photo-op with al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister the other day. That was carried in the press all over. So he's got some cache, if you will that a lot of the other leaders in that country up to his arrival on the scene didn't have. It will be interesting to see how he uses it tonight.

BLITZER: And we'll see -- also I'm curious to see if he directly addresses the president of the United States. If he says, Mr. Bush, are you listening, something along those lines. That could be dramatic. Stand by. We're going to be going to his remarks momentarily once he walks up to the podium.

Tonight President Bush's speech at the U.N. is being weighed by the diplomatic community around the world as well as here at home. I am joined here in New York by the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: The president said flatly that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb today, even though others have raised questions about that and the Iranians flatly deny it. They say they're enriching uranium for strictly peaceful purposes. How good is the intelligence that you are convinced that Iran definitely is trying to build a bomb?

BOLTON: Well, there's certainly information we have to that effect, but let me make it clear. There's simply no explanation for Iran's activities across the entire range of the nuclear fuel cycle unless they're seeking a weapons position. They say, for example, they want nuclear energy for peaceful purposes because they're running out of oil and natural gas and in fact our estimates are that they're going to run out of oil and natural gas in about 300 to 400 years. So the whole explanation of their program is not credible, but there's a whole range of other information, most of which has been made public by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

BLITZER: Because the International Atomic Energy Agency stops short of flatly saying they are building a bomb.

BOLTON: They have stopped short, but they've also refused to say that Iran's program is purely peaceful. It may just take one piece of information that the IAEA published. Iran has documents from AQCON, the great nuclear proliferators...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: From Pakistan.

BOLTON: ... from Pakistan about how to fabricate uranium metal into hemispheres. There's only one use of uranium metal formed in the hemisphere, and that's to form a nuclear weapon, but nothing to do with peaceful uses of nuclear power.

BLITZER: Going into the war with Iraq, all of the intelligence communities in Europe and the Middle East and United States, they seem to be convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We now know he did not, so maybe all of the intelligence communities as far as Iran are wrong right now for whatever reason.

And I say that only because the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, a member of the intelligence committee...

BOLTON: Carl Levin.

BLITZER: Carl Levin of Michigan, they told me recently that U.S. intelligence on Iran -- they don't believe is very good.

BOLTON: Well I think our intelligence could get much better, let's put it that way. But don't forget, intelligence was wrong about Saddam Hussein in 1990, '91 too when they didn't think they were close to developing a nuclear weapon, where the IAEA had no proof, but where after that war, we learned a lot more about what Saddam Hussein was up to.

So as they say, intelligence can be wrong in a lot of directions. There is no doubt that the strategic decision that Iran has been following for close to 20 years has been to get not only a nuclear weapons capability, but to enhance the range and accuracy of their ballistic missile forces as well and that combination is extraordinarily dangerous.

BLITZER: I assume the military option is being dusted off if it's not more advanced. BOLTON: Well I think we've said repeatedly we never take the military option off the table, but President Bush has been emphatic for several years now that our preferred way of dealing with the Iranian program is through peaceful and diplomatic means and he emphasized that again this morning at the U.N.

BLITZER: Is Senator Voinovich of Ohio right when he compares Ahmadinejad to Hitler?

BOLTON: I think any man who denies the existence of the Holocaust and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map hasn't learned the lessons of history and I don't know what kind of comparison you can draw other than that.

BLITZER: John Bolton, thanks very much for coming in.

BOLTON: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: Let's bring back Jack Cafferty as we await the remarks from the Iranian president momentarily. He'll be speaking before the United Nations General Assembly. What did you think of the arguments that the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. makes about Iran and its nuclear ambitions?

CAFFERTY: I think, Wolf, there are two things going here. One is whether or not Iran ought to have nuclear weapons and anybody with an IQ over 50 would say it's probably not a great idea. The more interesting back story to me is Ahmadinejad against Bush on the world stage playing this chess game about deadlines and sanctions and military options and weapons grade versus electrical nuclear -- peaceful use of nuclear energy.

That to me is much more interesting. You know in the cold hard light of day would anybody in his right mind say yes let's give Iran nuclear weapons? Of course not. He said right up I want to take Israel off the map. He's right next door to Israel, can't have that, but I love this thing that's happening between Bush and Ahmadinejad. This little guy is playing his cards pretty good so far.

BLITZER: And you make a fair point that the president of the United States addressed the world about Iran noon Eastern. The president of Iran now addressing the world body during the 7:p.m. Eastern hour when there are a lot more eyeballs than the there are at noon.

CAFFERTY: Yes, Bush got the "Price is Right" slot and this guy gets you know some -- Monday night football time or whatever it is...

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: And I bet it's not an accident here. I mean the world is waiting, but he wants to talk to the American people and it's going to be interesting to listen to.

BLITZER: I'm going to be interested in hearing what he has to say.

CAFFERTY: Sure.

BLITZER: Jack thanks very much. Stand by. We're keeping an eye on the United Nations where the president of Iran is expected to take the stage literally in the next few moments. We'll go there live.

Also nuclear intelligence, what proof does the White House have that Iran is actually pursuing a bomb? We're going to take a closer look at the hard facts. And talk, bomb or pass sanctions? What should the president do to break the impasse with Iran? I'm in New York covering the meetings at the United Nations, getting ready for my interview tomorrow morning with the president of the United States. We're about to hear from the Iranian leader.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Momentarily, the president of Iran will address the United Nations General Assembly. We'll bring you his remarks live as soon as he walks up to that podium. It's our top story this hour; the confrontation with Iran over what President Bush says is a nuclear weapons program.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's taking a closer look at the case against Iran -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at the heart of Western suspicion about Iran is the regime's long history of hiding its nuclear program. Tehran now says it's being transparent about what it calls peaceful nuclear development, but the suspicions linger.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

TODD (voice-over): An ambitious leader positioning himself as a major Middle East player. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government says those ambitions don't include a nuclear weapon. His American counterparts disagree. We took Joe Cirincione, a weapons expert who's been to Iran recently into THE SITUATION ROOM to look at three controversial facilities.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Natanz is where they have the centrifuges that will turn uranium into enriched uranium and Esfahan is where they're taking uranium from the ground and turning it into the gas that they can turn into the centrifuges and finally over in Iraq is where the Iranians are moving on a heavy water reactor that can be used to make plutonium, the other material for nuclear bombs.

TODD: Cirincione says the Iraq facility is designed to make plutonium quickly. No reason for that capability, he says, except to make nuclear material for bombs. Then there are the mysterious tunnels at the sprawling Esfahan plant. CIRINCIONE: In these tunnels near Esfahan, the Iranians say they're storing the uranium gas there, again, to protect it from possible attack, but they might also have a duplicate facility in those mountains. That's why we need intrusive inspections to ferret that out.

TODD: Inspections that would be difficult to carry out under current rules that Iran has insisted on, but experts say all three facilities could also be used for legitimate, peaceful, nuclear production which is Iran's stated intent. As for evidence...

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER WEAPONS INSPECTOR: There's no smoking gun and there's no evidence that Iran has made the decision to actually build nuclear weapons.

TODD: A finding backed up by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but the IAEA also says Iran hasn't stopped enriching low grade uranium and hasn't allowed inspectors to interview key scientists.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: An Iranian official at the United Nations tells me his government has complied with the IAEA for several years now and will continue to. We may know more soon, Wolf. Inspectors are on the ground as we speak.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much. And as we await the start of his remarks, the Iranian president, you have to remember Iran has defied a United Nations deadline. It has defied U.S. warnings to halt those suspect nuclear activities. So should the Bush administration now seek punishment for Iran or should it just bite the bullet and start talking directly with Iran?

Let's bring in CNN's Zain Verjee. She's watching this part of the story from Washington -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once said that we don't need to negotiate with our friends, just our enemies, in America's enemy camp, Iran. So should the U.S. directly engage Iran?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): The Bush administration is convinced Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb. For Washington, there's only one solution.

BUSH: Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

VERJEE: Iran says it doesn't want weapons, only energy. So it's enriching low-grade uranium, defying the U.N. Security Council demands to stop. It may be stalemate over at the U.N., but there's no checkmate yet for either side. Some experts argue the only way to force Iran to open up further to inspections is to negotiate.

SUSAN RICE, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: We need to talk directly to Iran. We need Iran to stop its support for terrorism, stop meddling in Iraq and most importantly relinquish its potential offensive nuclear program.

VERJEE: President Bush has said he will talk to Iran, but only after it verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment program, but some argue directly engaging Iran at all is a mistake. It would play into their hands and come back to bite the U.S.

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: Many people believe there is no cost to talking. I believe to the contrary. That when you are dealing with a regime like that in Iran negotiation actually can pay a very high price because it allows the regime to buy time and to become more dangerous even than it is today.

VERJEE: There's concern, too, talking to Iran would give hard line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad credibility. Other options don't seem attractive or promising, an attack on Iran always possible but potentially disastrous. The specter of sanctions appear to be running out of steam. China and Russia aren't onboard and France's president is pouring cold water on it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: For now the administration appears to be banking on talking through Europe and using political and economic incentives to try lure Iran off the nuclear path -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain thanks very much. And still to come, we're standing by to hear directly from Iran's president momentarily. He'll be addressing the United Nations General Assembly. We'll go there live. Will he bring his fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric to the world stage tonight? We're going to watch it with you.

Plus, I'll speak with the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke. He's standing by live as well.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting tonight from New York. We're standing by for the speech of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's about to speak before the United Nations General Assembly. We have reporters standing by, Suzanne Malveaux, Aneesh Raman, also the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke.

Suzanne Malveaux, the president of the United States spoke a few hours ago, the president of Iran about to speak now. These two men, their paths did not cross directly today, but certainly both of them had the other very much on their minds.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely, Wolf. And really, this is the closest that administration officials say we'll get to any kind of debate between these two leaders, these dueling messages, but senior administration officials tell me they were quite disappointed. They really wanted to have U.N. Security Council resolution on the table before this General Assembly meeting.

They'd been working on it very hard over the last couple of weeks, but as you know, China and Russia have balked at that and we heard today from the French president, Jacques Chirac, who came out saying, look, we should not be talking about economic sanctions at this time, but rather furthering these talks and the reality of the situation is, is that the White House really has little choice in the matter, but to allow the Europeans to continue to talk to the Iranian regime and hope that they cooperate.

BLITZER: Suzanne, stand by. Aneesh Raman is outside the United Nations. He's been there all day. Aneesh, you've spent several weeks recently inside Iran, a rare opportunity for a reporter to get a sense of what's going on. The Iranians insist they're not building a nuclear bomb, that what they're doing to enrich uranium is designed for peaceful purposes, but they could easily clarify that by allowing the U.N. inspectors to go out and do what they want to do. What's their answer when you point out to them that they could easily clarify their intentions?

RAMAN: Well they say they're trying to do that, that they are transparent, that inspectors are on the ground. The IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, has (INAUDIBLE) some instances where inspectors were barred from nuclear facilities, but Iranian officials have warned before that things could get worse, that if any action is taken by the U.N. Security Council, they will kick out the inspectors who are there and they would pursuit the program that they deem to be for peaceful purposes in secret, and that that would make this entire situation much worse.

It's important to keep in mind as well, Wolf, that just a year ago the world really had no idea who this Iranian president was. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected in a surprise victory, not because he was eager to take on the world, but because he promised economic reform.

When I was in Iran a few weeks ago, Iranians consistently told me that they were desperately waiting for their economy to get better. Ahmadinejad was voted in because he was seen as a man of the people. Inexpensive suits, he drove his own car. He wore a trash man's uniform for a day on the campaign trail and promised that he was going to bring an end to corruption, bring money back to the people.

Instead, over the past year, he has changed his base to the broader Muslim world, to the streets of Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and is using this nuclear issue as a platform to become a global power. For the Iranian people, all of that is good and well, it raises their stature in the world, but they want economic reform, and they're not getting it at the moment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh, stand by. We're standing by to hear from the Iranian president. Right now, the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is wrapping up his remarks before the United Nations General Assembly. The next speaker, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We'll go there live as soon as the Iranian leader starts speaking.

Let's bring in the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, who served during the Clinton administration. Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Good to be in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: There is a lot of people who suspect this situation, like the situation with Saddam Hussein, in the end is going to result in military action. Is there a way, realistically, to avoid that?

HOLBROOKE: Well, it's always a possibility, and you can't rule it out, but I think it's very unlikely. The United States is fighting two wars right now, to the west and to the east of Iran. In fact, we did the Iranians the biggest favor in the world in the last five years. We overthrew their enemies, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, gave them a Shiite government for the first time in 400 years in Iran -- in Iraq. They spent eight years and a million lives and couldn't do it. They have become the great beneficiaries of American policy over the last five years.

BLITZER: So you're saying that Ahmadinejad has been emboldened by what the United States has done in overthrowing the Taliban and kicking out Saddam Hussein?

HOLBROOKE: The Iranians are the big beneficiaries of events since 9/11. It's clear. They have a Shia government in Iran, they have -- in Iraq. The Taliban are gone. They got Hamas and Hezbollah. They have got $70 oil. They're building nukes.

And today's events -- and Jack Cafferty really got it right -- President Bush's speech was pretty good as speeches go, but the theater here is remarkable. A hunk president, the world's leading anti-Semite, has been elevated to a mano a mano on the world stage today by circumstances which I don't understand. I don't understand why President Bush would have allowed himself to be scheduled on the same day as Ahmadinejad.

BLITZER: Could he change that, or is that something that is up to the United Nations?

HOLBROOKE: That's a technological issue. I'd leave it to the current ambassador, but let me just put it this way: Had I been in that job, I would have done everything I could to prevent them talking on the same day so that -- to prevent the kind of conversations you and Jack Cafferty correctly were just having.

This is just theater today, but a tiny pipsqueak leader and an anti-Semite of the worst order, the worst since Hitler in some ways, is being given this co-equal status. That's what we're talking about.

BLITZER: Are we giving him too much attention right now? Because as you know, a lot of people have made...

HOLBROOKE: Is the press giving him too much attention?

BLITZER: Well, the whole world, if you will.

HOLBROOKE: I think that -- I think that -- this is a tough question, particularly since I have such great respect for you, but I think...

BLITZER: All right, hold on...

HOLBROOKE: ... I think the answer is you're covering the story, and I don't criticize that. But he -- but the way this is being played right now is very much helping him, as the previous reporter said.

BLITZER: The president of Bolivia has just wrapped up his remarks, Evo Morales. The next speaker on the schedule is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He'll be walking up momentarily. We are going to be watching very carefully to see the reactions to various parts. Who's going to be listening, who's there. You've seen a lot of these, Ambassador Holbrooke. You've seen a lot of these kinds of speeches.

HOLBROOKE: Watch who's in the American delegation.

BLITZER: Whether the secretary of state is there, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, or whether a relatively junior U.S. diplomat is there. But the procedure, the protocol is now that someone escorts President Ahmadinejad to the podium.

HOLBROOKE: My guess is you're going to see one or two very low- level people, or an empty seat.

This can be contrasted to when Khatami was president of Iran in 2000, and as you well remember, as you covered it, President Clinton sat through that address, because Khatami was a reformer.

BLITZER: Here he comes right now. We're hearing the introduction of the president of Iran, and he's probably going to speak for at least 10 minutes, maybe a little bit longer. We want our viewers to be able to hear what he has to say. We'll assess his remarks right afterwards with the ambassador and others. He's just sitting down. What do they do now before he actually starts the speech? He's not there yet. He's sitting down.

HOLBROOKE: They will escort him. There he is. It will be very interesting to see who is sitting in the delegations of the Western countries, China and so on. Is it foreign ministers, ambassadors, or as I assume, lower.

BLITZER: All right. Let's listen in.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): Madam President, distinguished heads of state and government, distinguished heads of delegation, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I praise the Merciful, All-Knowing and Almighty God for blessing me with another opportunity to address this assembly on behalf of the great nation of Iran and to bring a number of issues to the attention of the international community.

I also praise the Almighty for the increasing vigilance of peoples across the globe, their courageous presence in different international settings, and the brave expression of their views and aspirations regarding global issues. Today, humanity passionately craves commitment to the truth, devotion to God, quest for justice, and respect for the dignity of human beings. Rejection of domination and aggression, defense of the oppressed and longing for peace constitute the legitimate demand of the peoples of the world, particularly the new generations and the spirited youth who aspire to a world free from decadence, aggression and injustice, and replete with love and compassion.

The youth have a right to seek justice and the truth, and they have the right to build their own future on the foundations of love, compassion and tranquillity.

And I praise the Almighty for this immense blessing.

Madam President, excellencies, what afflicts humanity today is certainly not compatible with human dignity. The Almighty has not created human beings so that they could transgress against others and oppress them.

By causing war and conflict, some are fast expanding their domination, accumulating greater wealth and usurping all the resources, while others endure the resulting poverty, suffering and misery.

Some seek to rule the world, relying on weapons and threats, while others live in perpetual insecurity and danger. Some occupy the homeland of others, thousands of kilometers away from their borders, interfere in their affairs and control their oil and other resources and strategic roots, while others are bombarded daily in their own homes, their children murdered in the streets and alleys of their own country and their homes reduced to rubble.

Such behavior is not worthy of human beings. It runs counter to the truth, to justice and to human dignity.

The fundamental question is that under such conditions, where should the oppressed seek justice? Who or what organization defends the rights of the oppressed and suppresses acts of aggression and oppression? Where is the seat of global justice? A brief glance at a few examples of the most pressing global issues can further illustrate the problem.

A, the unbridled expansion of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Some powers proudly announce the production of second and third-generations of nuclear weapons. What do they need these weapons for? Is the development and stockpiling of these deadly weapons designed to promote peace and democracy? Or are these weapons, in fact, instruments of coercion and threat against other peoples and governments?

How long should the people of the world live with the nightmare of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons? What bounds the powers producing and possessing these weapons? How can they be held accountable before the international community? And are the inhabitants of these countries content with the waste of their wealth and resources for the production of such destructive arsenals? Is it not possible to rely on justice, ethics and wisdom instead of these instruments of death? Aren't wisdom and justice more compatible with peace and tranquillity than nuclear, chemical and biological weapons? If wisdom, ethics and justice prevail, then oppression and aggression will be uprooted. Threats will wither away and no reason will remain for conflict.

This is a solid proposition because most global conflicts emanate from injustice and from the powerful not being content with their own rights, striving to devour the rights of others. People across the globe embrace justice and are willing to sacrifice for its sake. Would it not be easier for global powers to ensure their longevity and win hearts and minds through the championing of real promotion of justice, compassion and peace than through the continuing -- than through continuing the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons and the threat of their use? The experience of the threat and the use of nuclear weapons is before us. Has it achieved anything for the perpetrators other than the exacerbation of tension, hatred and animosity among nations?

B, occupation of countries and exacerbation of hostilities. Occupation of countries including Iraq has continued for the last three years. Not a day goes by without hundreds of people getting killed in cold blood. The occupiers are incapable of establishing security in Iraq despite the establishment of a lawful government and national assembly of Iraq, there are covert and overt efforts to heighten insecurity, magnify and aggravate differences within Iraqi society and instigate civil strife.

There is no indication that the occupiers have the necessary political will to eliminate the sources of instability. Numerous terrorists were apprehended by the government of Iraq only to be let loose under the various pretexts by the occupiers. It seems that intensification of hostilities and terrorism serves as a pretext for the continued presence of foreign forces in Iraq.

Where can the people of Iraq seek refuge and from whom should the government of Iraq seek justice? Who can ensure Iraq's security? Insecurity in Iraq affects the entire region. Can the security council play a role in restoring peace and security in Iraq while the occupiers are themselves permanent members of the council? Can the security council adopt a fair decision in this regard?

Consider the situation in Palestine. The roots of the Palestinian problem go back to the second world war. Under the pretext of protecting some of the survivors of that war, the land of Palestine was occupied through war, aggression and of displacement of millions of its inhabitants.

It was placed under the control of some of the war survivors, bringing even larger population groups from elsewhere in the world who had not even been affected by the second world war, and the government was established in the territory of others with the population collected from across the world at the expense of driving millions of the rightful inhabitants of the land into a diaspora and homelessness. This is a great tragedy, and with hardly a precedent in history. Refugees continue to live in temporary refugee camps, and many have died still hoping to one day return to their land. Can any logic, law or legal reasoning justify this tragedy? Can any member of the United Nations accept such a tragedy occurring in their own homeland?

The pretext for the creation of the regime occupying Al Quds Al Sharif are so weak that his proponents want to silence any voice trying to merely speak about them, as they are concerned that the shedding light on the facts would undermine the raison d'etre of this regime, as it has.

The tragedy does not end with the establishment of a regime in the territory of others. Regrettably, from its inception, that regime has been a constant source of threat and insecurity in the Middle East region. Waging war and spilling blood and impeding the progress of regional countries, and has also been used by some powers as an instrument of division, coercion and pressure on the people of the region.

Reference to these historical realities may cause some disquiet among supporters of this regime, but these are sheer facts and not myth. History has unfolded before our eyes.

Worse yet is the blanket and unwarranted support provided to this regime. Just watch what is happening in the Palestinian land. People are being bombarded in their own homes and their children murdered in their own streets and alleys. But no authority, not even the Security Council can afford them any support or protection. Why?

At the same time, a government is formed democratically and through the free choice of the electorate in a part of the Palestinian territory, but instead of receiving the support of the so-called champions of democracy, its ministers and its members of parliament are illegally abducted and incarcerated in full view of the international community.

Which council or international organization stands up to protect this brutally besieged government, and why can't the Security Council take any steps?

Let me here address Lebanon. For 33 long days, the Lebanese lived under the barrage of fire and bombs and close to 1.5 million of them were displaced. Meanwhile, some members of the Security Council practically chose a path that provided ample opportunity for the aggressor to achieve its objectives militarily.

We witnessed that the Security Council of the United Nations was practically incapacitated by certain powers to even call for a cease- fire. The Security Council sat idly by for so many days, witnessing the cruel scenes of atrocities against the Lebanese, while tragedies such as Qana were persistently repeated.

Why? In all these cases, the answer is self-evident. When the power behind the hostilities is itself a permanent member of the Security Council, how then can this council fulfill its responsibilities?

C, lack of respect for the rights of members of the international community. Excellencies, I now wish to refer to some of the grievances of the Iranian people and speak to the injustices against them. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a member of the IAEA and is committed to the NPT. All our nuclear activities are transparent, peaceful, and under the watchful eyes of the IAEA inspectors.

Why, then, are there objections to our legally-recognized rights? Which governments object to these rights? Governments that themselves benefit from nuclear energy and the fuel cycle. Some of them have abused nuclear technology for non-peaceful ends, including the production of nuclear bombs, and some even have a bleak record of using them against humanity.

Which organization or council should address these injustices? Is the Security Council in a position to address them? Can it stop violations of the inalienable rights of countries? Can it prevent certain powers from impeding the scientific progress of other countries? The abuse of the Security Council as an instrument of threat and coercion is indeed a source of grave concern.

Some permanent members of the Security Council, even when they are themselves parties to international disputes, conveniently threaten others with the Security Council and declare, even before any decision by the council, the condemnation of their opponents by the council.

The question is, what can justify such exploitation of the Security Council, and doesn't it erode the credibility and the effectiveness of the council? Can such behavior contribute to the ability of the counsel to maintain security? Excellencies, a review of the proceeding historical realities would lead to the conclusion that, regrettably, justice has become a victim of force and aggression.

Many global arrangements have become unjust, discriminatory, and irresponsible as a result of undue pressure from some of the powerful. Threats with nuclear weapons and other instruments of war by some powers have taken the place of respect for the rights of nations and the maintenance and promotion of peace and tranquillity.

For some powers, claims of promotion of human rights and democracy can only last as long as they can be used as instruments of pressure and intimidation against other nations. But when it comes to the interests of the claimants, concepts such as democracy, the right of self-determination of nations, respect for the rights and intelligence of peoples, international law and justice have no place or value.

This is blatantly manifested in the way the elected government of the Palestinian people is treated, as well as in the support extended to the Zionist regime. It does not matter if people are murdered in Palestine, turned into refugees, captured, imprisoned or besieged. That apparently does not violate human rights. Nations are not equal in exercising their rights recognized by international law. Enjoying these rights is dependent upon the whim of certain major powers.

Apparently, the Security Council can only be used to ensure the security and the rights of some big powers, but when the oppressed are decimated under bombardment, the Security Council must remain aloof and not even call for a cease-fire. Is this not a tragedy of historic proportions for the Security Council, which is charged with maintaining the security of countries?

The prevailing order of contemporary global interaction is such that certain powers equate themselves with the international community and consider their decisions superceding that of over 180 countries. They consider themselves the masters and rulers of the entire world and other nations as only second-class in the world order.

Excellencies, the question needs to be asked, if the governments of the United States or the United Kingdom, who are permanent members of the Security Council, commit aggression, occupation and violation of international law, to which of the organs of the U.N. can take them into account? Can a council in which they are privileged members address their violations? Has this ever happened?

In fact, we have repeatedly seen the reverse. If they have differences with a nation or state, they drag it to the Security Council and as claimants, arrogate to themselves simultaneously the roles of prosecutor, judge and executioner. Is this a just order? Can there be a more vivid case of discrimination and more clear evidence of injustice?

Regrettably, the persistence of some hegemonic powers in imposing their exclusionist policies on the international decision-making mechanisms, including the Security Council, has resulted in a growing mistrust in global public opinion, undermining the credibility and effectiveness of this most universal system of collective security.

Excellencies, how long can such a situation last in the world? It is evident that the behavior of some powers constitutes the greatest challenge before the Security Council, the entire organization, and its affiliated agencies. The present structure and working methods of the Security Council, which are legacies of the Second World War, are not responsive to the expectations of the current generation and the contemporary needs of humanity.

Today, it is undeniable that the Security Council most critically and urgently needs legitimacy and effectiveness. It must be acknowledged that as long as the council is unable to act on behalf of the entire international community in a transparent, just and Democratic manner, it will neither be legitimate nor effective.

Furthermore, the direct relation between the abuse of veto and the erosion of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the council has now been clearly and undeniably established. We cannot and should not expect the eradication or even containment of injustice, imposition and oppression without reforming the structure and working methods of the council.

Is it appropriate to expect this generation to submit to the decisions and arrangements established over half a century ago? Doesn't this generation or future generations have the right to decide themselves about the world in which they want to live?

Today, serious reform in the structure and working methods of the Security Council is, more than ever before, necessary. Justice and democracy dictate that the role of the General Assembly, as the highest organ of the United Nations, must be respected. The General Assembly can then, through appropriate mechanisms, take on the task of reforming the organization and particularly rescue the Security Council from its current state.

In the interim, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the African continent should each have a representative as a permanent member of the Security Council, with veto privilege. The resulting balance would hopefully prevent further trampling of the rights nations.

Madam President, Excellencies, it is essential that spirituality and ethics find their rightful place in international relations. Without ethics and spirituality, attained in the light of the teachings of the divine prophets, justice, freedom and human rights cannot be guaranteed.

Resolution of contemporary human crises lies in observing ethics and spirituality and the governance of righteous people of high competence and piety. Should respect for the rights of human beings become the predominant objective, then, injustice, ill temperament, aggression, and war will fade away.

Human beings are all God's creatures, and are all endowed with dignity and respect. No one has superiority over others. No individual or states can arrogate to themselves special privileges, nor can they disregard the rights of others and, through influence and pressure, position themselves as the international community.

Citizens of Asia, Africa, Europe and America are all equal. Over six billion inhabitants of the Earth are all equal and worthy of respect. Justice and the protection of human dignity are the two pillars in maintaining sustainable peace, security, and tranquility in the world.

It is for this reason that we state sustainable peace and tranquility in the world can only be obtained through justice, spirituality, ethics, compassion, and respect for human dignity.

All nations and states are entitled to peace, progress and security. We are all members of the international community. And we are all entitled to insist on the creation of a climate of compassion, love and justice.

All members of the United Nations are affected by both the bitter and the sweet events and developments in today's world. We can adopt firm and logical decisions, thereby improving the prospects of a better life for current and future generations.

Together, we can eradicate the roots of bitter maladies and afflictions, and instead, through promotion of universal and lasting values, such as ethics, spirituality and justice, allow our nations to taste the sweetness of a better future.

Peoples, driven by their divine nature, intrinsically seek good, virtue, perfection, and beauty. Relying on our peoples, we can take giant steps towards reform and pave the road for human perfection.

Whether we like it or not, justice, peace and virtue will, sooner or later, prevail in the world, with the will of the almighty God. It is imperative and also desirable that we, too, contribute to the promotion of justice and virtue.

The almighty and merciful God, who is the creator of the universe, is also its lord and ruler. Justice is his command. He commands his creatures to support one another in good, virtue, and piety, and not in decadence and corruption.

He commands his creatures to enjoin one another to righteousness and virtue, and not to sin and transgression. All divine prophets, from the prophet Adam -- be peace upon him -- to the prophet Moses, to the prophet Jesus Christ, to the Prophet Mohammed, have all called humanity to monotheism, justice, brotherhood, love, and compassion.

Is it not possible to build a better world based on monotheism, justice, love, and respect for the rights of human beings, and, thereby, transform animosities into friendship?

I emphatically declare that today's world, more than ever before, longs for just and righteous people, with love for all humanity, and, above all, longs for the perfect, righteous human being, and the real savior, who has been promised to all peoples, and who will establish justice, peace, and brotherhood on the planet.

Oh, almighty God, all men and women are your creatures. And you have ordained their guidance and salvation. Bestow upon humanity that thirst for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by you, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: You see the applause from the delegations from both Iran and Iraq -- the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking for nearly 30 minutes, a lot longer than a lot of people had anticipated. We thought it was going to be about a 10-minute speech -- a kindler -- a kinder, more gentle approach than some of his other more fiery remarks, focusing in on what he called the injustices of the United Nations Security Council, insisting that Iran has only peaceful purposes for its nuclear program.

Paula Zahn is here in New York with us.

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