Iran president says U.N. sanctions unlikely
Ahmadinejad also tells Israelis to go back to Europe
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday dismissed the possibility of U.N. sanctions against his country and called for the dissolution of Israel, saying that the country is an artificial state and Jews should return to their "fatherlands" in Europe.
Ahmadinejad, in a wide-ranging news conference that included international journalists for only the second time since he took office in August, said anti-Semitism drove Jews out of Europe into Israel.
"We believe that Jews like any other human beings have the right to live in happiness and prosperity and to benefit from security," he said, according to a CNN translator. "Allow them to go back to their own fatherlands and countries."
The Palestinians and Germans, he said, are being "blackmailed" and forced to continue making amends for a war in which the present generation played no part.
And, as he has done in the past, he appeared to question whether the Holocaust took place. He called Israel's regime artificial, saying it was established in the late 1940s on a "story" and "to this day, it bloodies and kills defenseless people."
"Allow the Palestinian nation to freely announce its intentions and see what happens," he said. "You are always talking about democracy. ... This is the testing grounds for those ideas."
According to Reuters, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Monday called on world powers to act on Iran soon.
"Of all the threats we face, Iran is the biggest. The world must not wait. It must do everything necessary on a diplomatic level in order to stop its nuclear activity," Mofaz told a conference on Iran at Tel Aviv University, Reuters reported.
"Since Hitler we have not faced such a threat." (Full story)
Iran: Sanctions would be mistake
On the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad said he thought it unlikely the U.N. Security Council would impose sanctions against Iran, adding he believes most member countries "are rational enough not to make such a great mistake."
Asked about the possibility of a U.S. attack on Iran, Ahmadinejad said he did not believe such a military operation would take place, but he warned, "My nation is a strong nation. It can defend itself."
He said, "We are suspicious of the American government. ... They want to portray themselves as masters of the world. They are showing certain behaviors that have led to their mistrust. We don't negotiate with them as a matter of principle."
U.S. officials have said they are pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the standoff with Iran, though President Bush has said no option is off the table.
Reporters asked Bush last week if that included the possibility of a nuclear strike.
"All options are on the table," Bush replied. "We want to solve this issue diplomatically, and we're working hard to do so."
Ahmadinejad insists nuclear program transparent
Ahmadinejad again insisted Tehran's nuclear research and nuclear advances are aimed at an energy program. The United States and other Western countries have said the work is a guise to hide development of a nuclear weapon.
U.S. intelligence officials have estimated, based on the assumption that Iran has only P-1 centrifuges, that the country is five to 10 years away from making a nuclear weapon.
Ahmadinejad also recently asserted that Iran is "now under the process of research and testing" of faster P-2 centrifuges, which enrich uranium more quickly. It's unclear if he was saying Iran already has P-2 centrifuges.
But Monday, the Iranian president implied the transparency in the nuclear program proved it was for peaceful purposes.
"We don't have any need to cover up our activities," Ahmadinejad said. "If we were going to cover up, we would have conducted ourselves differently."
As proof, he pointed to his April 11 announcement that Iran had enriched uranium in concentrations sufficient to run a nuclear power plant -- defying the Security Council's call to suspend enrichment.
The council has set a Friday deadline for the suspension, asking International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to report back to it then. The IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, has supervised Tehran's nuclear activities.
Ahmadinejad, however, said the IAEA plays favorites, "translating the wishes of a number of powerful countries." He questioned why the organization has never inspected American atomic facilities, saying the United States does not follow safeguards imposed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968.
He also questioned whether Iran's membership in the IAEA should continue, saying it has been "very harsh in your inspections. ... After 30 years of membership, what are you giving us?"
"We are not threatening any country," he said. "We don't believe in the language of threats, but we are going to be unwavering. When it comes to defending the national interests of this country, we are going to be steadfast."
Tehran is ready to negotiate with any country on its nuclear program, but Iran's sovereignty and its rights must be respected, he said.
Questioned about a possible agreement with Moscow in which Russia would enrich uranium for Iran, Ahmadinejad said his country no longer supported the plan. "That was six months ago. The climate has changed," he said, adding that Tehran still enjoys friendly relations with Russia.
His comments came a day after Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said the country's nuclear program cannot be stopped. (Full story)
"We are determined not to give up our rights to nuclear energy, and suspension of relevant activities is not on our agenda," Hamid-Reza Asefi said. "The issue is irreversible." (Watch Iran defend its right to nuclear research -- 1:37)
CNN's Elise Labott and Aneesh Raman contributed to this report.
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