Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has denied his country is seeking nuclear weapons. He told a news conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly that he is "at a loss" as to what more Iran can do to prove its nuclear intentions are peaceful.
The Iranian leader repeatedly stated that his country has no interest in developing nuclear bombs. He said such weapons are no longer an effective deterrent.
"The bottom line is, we don't need a bomb," said Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. "Unlike what others think. Regretfully, some believe that the nuclear bomb can be effective in international relations. They're wrong, because the time for nuclear bombs has ended."
As he prepared to leave New York after three days at the U.N., Ahmedinejad said he thinks talks with European powers on ending its uranium enrichment program are, in his words, "on the right path." He said Iran is prepared to discuss complying with U.N. Security Council demands for a suspension. But he gave no indication when that would be.
"Our position on suspension is very clear," he said. "In the package given to the Europeans, we've discussed that. We have said that under fair conditions and just conditions we will negotiate."
U.N. diplomats say Ahmedinejad's comments are the clearest signal yet that Iran might agree to halt uranium enrichment. The Tehran government ignored an earlier U.N. Security Council demand that it suspend enrichment by the end of August.
The five permanent Council members plus Germany and Italy this week agreed to give Iran more time to give up enrichment before discussing possible sanctions. U.N. diplomats say the new deadline would allow negotiations to continue until early October.
During his news conference, the Iranian leader had harsh criticism for the U.S. government, but at the same time expressed respect for the American people. He denied being anti-Jewish, but avoided a direct answer when asked if he seeks the destruction of Israel.
"We love everyone around the world, Jews, Christians, Muslims," said Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. "Non-Muslims, non-Jews, non-Christians. We have no problem with people. What we object to are acts that are inappropriate against us, or acts of occupation, of aggression, of violence, of displacement of nations. And we say that loudly."
Wednesday evening, Ahmedinejad appeared at New York's Council on Foreign Relations, where he questioned an eyewitness account of the Holocaust. Several Jewish members of the think tank boycotted the event.
Council member and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel had threatened to resign from the organization if dinner was served. In response, the Council agreed to cancel the meal, and instead served hors d'oeuvres.