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Iran's president condemns anti-Islam film, the violence it sparked

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:16 PM EDT, Sun September 23, 2012
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sits down with CNN's Piers Morgan in New York
  • "We do not like anyone losing their lives ... for any reason, anywhere," the president says
  • Ahmadinejad discusses the possibility of a military conflict with Israel
  • He speaks strongly about his views on homosexuality

Watch the full interview Monday at 9 p.m. ET on "Piers Morgan Tonight"

New York (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slammed Sunday an anti-Islam film and the violent and deadly protests it triggered in the Muslim world.

Ahmadinejad spoke to CNN's Piers Morgan in New York, ahead of the president's visit to the U.N. General Assembly this week.

"Fundamentally, first of all, any action that is provocative, offends the religious thoughts and feelings of any people, we condemn," he said about the inflammatory film that mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.

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"Likewise, we condemn any type of extremism. Of course, what took place was ugly. Offending the Holy Prophet is quite ugly. This has very little or nothing to do with freedom and freedom of speech. This is the weakness of and the abuse of freedom, and in many places it is a crime. It shouldn't take place and I do hope the day will come in which politicians will not seek to offend those whom others hold holy," said Ahmadinejad.

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"We also believe that this must also be resolved in a humane atmosphere, in a participatory environment and we do not like anyone losing their lives or being killed for any reason, anywhere in the world."

The privately produced film sparked protests against the United States, where it was made. While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, some were marred by violence that has left more than two dozen people dead -- among them U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that reportedly followed a demonstration against the film.

When asked by Morgan whether he thought protesters should stop threatening U.S. staff abroad, Ahmadinejad responded that he cannot say what other people or nations should do, but that he believes "extremism gives birth to following and subsequent extremists.

"Perhaps if the politicians take a better position in the West vis-a-vis offensive words or thoughts or pictures towards what we hold holy, I think conditions will improve," the president said.

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During the wide-ranging interview, which will be broadcast Monday, Ahmadinejad discussed what Iran would do if Israel were to attack it.

"Any nation has the right and will indeed defend herself. But my question is this: Why should the world be managed in such a way that an individual can allow himself to threaten a rich and deeply rooted historical, ancient country, such as Iran. A great country, such as Iran, based on an excuse of his own fabrication ... Another country can say, I am guessing that country B is doing activity X, therefore I will attack that country ... can this be ... a successful formula for the management of the world?" Ahmadinejad asked.

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The president was likely referring to his country's disputed nuclear program.

Some world powers, particularly Western nations, suspect that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

In response to whether he feared a war, or military conflict, with Israel was imminent, Ahmadinejad said: "The Zionists are very much, very adventuresome, very much seeking to fabricate things and I think they see themselves at the end of the line and I do firmly believe that they seek to create new opportunities for themselves and their adventurous behaviors."

In related news Sunday, a top general in Iran said his country would be capable of defeating Israel within a day, according to Iran's state-run Press TV.

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"A regime (with a frontier) that in some spots is only 24 kilometers wide could have its back broken by one of our infantry battalions in 24 hours," Brigadier General Hossein Salami reportedly said.

"Our strategic doctrines are all defensive, but our tactics are invasive. It means that we do not initiate any war, but if anyone wages a war against us, we will counterattack incessantly and will not stop," he said, Press TV reported. "The enemy could initiate a war, but its ending would be up to us."

President Ahmadinejad also spoke strongly about his views on homosexuality.

"I'm sorry. Let me ask you this. Do you believe that anyone is giving birth through homosexuality? Homosexuality ceases procreation. Who has said that if you like or believe in doing something ugly, and others do not accept your behavior, that they're denying your freedom?" he asked Morgan.

"Proper education must be given ... the education system must be revamped. The political system must be revamped. And these must be also reformed, revamped along the way. But if you, if a group recognizes an ugly behavior or ugly deed as legitimate, you must not expect other countries or other groups to give it the same recognition."

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