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Iranian Nuclear Scientists Willing to Meet With International Experts

Albright said the proposal to make Iran's nuclear experts available to answer questions from international scientists is also potentially significant because Iran has not previously allowed such a meeting, even in an unofficial setting.

U.S. officials declined to comment on the proposal. The Iranian president did not mention the proposal during a speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday night; instead, he spent much of the address ranting against Israel and capitalism. Many diplomats, including those from the United States, left the chamber.

In the one-hour interview, Ahmadinejad appeared relaxed and confident, frequently bantering with and challenging the interviewers as he spoke through an interpreter. He also talked in detail about various technical reports on Iran's nuclear programs by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

He insisted that Iran has no interest in acquiring nuclear weapons but did not directly answer whether his government would pledge never to acquire them. "We fundamentally believe nuclear bombs are the wrong thing to have," he said.

He also asserted that the attention focused on Iran's uranium enrichment is misplaced, because, he said, it is only for electricity and cannot be used for bombs. "Don't you think it is hilarious to say that it is potentially dangerous for Iran to possess one nuclear warhead for the whole world, but that the fact that the United States possesses 10,000 of them poses no threat whatsoever?" he jibed.

Ahmadinejad expressed some hope for a change in relations with the United States with the election of Obama, but he warned that the new administration should not simply repackage old proposals with new language.

"Cosmetic or superficial changes will not be able to resolve any of the problems we face today. It will only complicate them," he said.

"We hope Mr. Obama is seeking real change," he added. "We are of the belief that if he decides he will at least be able to change at least a segment of the changes he had his mind set on. And we are willing to help bring about those changes."

At that point in the interview, Ahmadinejad announced Iran's readiness to purchase nuclear material from the United States and to have its nuclear experts hash out issues with other experts. "Why not just let them sit and talk and see what kind of capacity they can build? I think it is good thing to happen," he said.

When the subject turned to the war in Afghanistan, Ahmadinejad seemed almost to gloat about the dilemma facing the United States.

"Everyone knows that NATO is close to final defeat in Afghanistan," he said. "We could just stay silent about it and be an onlooker because at the end of the day, some NATO states happen to be our enemies. So we can be happy they are getting defeated there. But we are not happy. It saddens us."

But, he said, "we are ready to assist, provided, though, that the policies being pursued change. . . . Afghanistan does not have a military solution to it."

Ahmadinejad expounded at some length about the sad history of foreign invaders in Afghanistan. When it was pointed out to him that more than 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he shrugged.

"Have they managed to sort of reappear and be alive again after the crimes that were carried out in Afghanistan?" he said. "Not only that, but tens of thousands after have been killed as a result. You cannot wash blood with blood."

Staff writer Colum Lynch contributed to this report.

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