Ahmadinejad says U.S.-led wars behind Wall Street crisis

WASHINGTON Tue Sep 23, 2008 10:53am BST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a U.S. newspaper the Wall Street crisis stemmed partly from American military interventions and said the next U.S. president should back off what he called President George W. Bush's confrontational policies.

In a separate radio interview, Ahmadinejad -- in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly -- also said the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency offers "the best guarantee" that Iran will enrich uranium for peaceful uses.

In an interview conducted on Monday with the Los Angeles Times, Ahmadinejad said: "The U.S. government has made a series of mistakes in the past few decades. First, the imposition on the U.S. economy of heavy military engagement and involvement around the world ... the war in Iraq, for example... These are heavy costs."

"The world economy can no longer tolerate the budgetary deficit and the financial pressures occurring from markets here in the United States, and by the U.S. government," he added.

In both interviews with the Times and National Public Radio, Ahmadinejad accused the United States of pressuring the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to probe Iran's nuclear program. He also told the Times that "all the documentation was forged" that questioned peaceful purposes of the program.

"In fact, it was so funny and superficial and not in depth that a school kid could laugh at it," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Washington believes Iran's uranium enrichment effort is aimed at making a bomb, but Iran says it is for energy purposes.

NON-COOPERATION

The IAEA has released a report detailing Iran's non-cooperation with the agency's investigation of whether Iran had covertly researched ways to make an atomic bomb.

Major powers are considering a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran, a move resisted by Russia and China.

Asked if Iran plans to reassure the world it intends to use its nuclear program for peaceful uses only, Ahmadinejad told NPR Washington should "extend at least the equivalent of one-tenth the cooperation we have extended" to the IAEA. "We believe that the IAEA itself offers the best guarantee," he added.

NPR released a transcript of the interview ahead of its broadcast later on Tuesday.

In both interviews, the Iranian leader accused the Bush administration of confrontational policies that have inflamed problems around the world.

"We do not believe that the U.S. policy perspective, looking at the rest of the world as a field of confrontation, will give good results," he told the Times.

"Any (U.S.) government that comes to power must change previous policy approaches," the newspaper quoted him as saying, adding that he was ready to speak with the presidential candidates this week.

"We're interested in having friendly relations," the Times quoted him as saying.

On U.S.-Iranian relations, Ahmadinejad said he had "taken lots of leaps forward in this respect," adding: "I even said that I am prepared to talk at the United nations with them."

Ahmadinejad, who has predicted the demise of Israel, touted his proposal for a Palestinian referendum to determine the future of what is now Israel, West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"Let me create an analogy here -- where exactly is the Soviet Union today? It did disappear -- but exactly how? It was through the vote of its own people. So therefore in Palestine too we must allow the people, the Palestinians, to determine their own future," he told NPR.

(Writing by Vicki Allen, editing by Sami Aboudi)