Obama's remarks were part of an interview with BBC Persian. Here is the transcript:
Interview of the President by Bahman Kalbasi, BBC Persian
Waldorf-Astoria, New York, New York
10:08 A.M. EDT
Q Mr. President, thank you very much for your time.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for having me.
Q If I could just begin with getting your reaction to the remarks Mr. Ahmadinejad made yesterday, faulting America for 9/11.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it was offensive. It was hateful. And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of Ground Zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable.
And it stands in contrast with the response of the Iranian people when 9/11 happened, when there were candlelight vigils and I think a natural sense of shared humanity and sympathy was expressed within Iran. And it just shows once again sort of the difference between how the Iranian leadership and this regime operates and how I think the vast majority of the Iranian people who are respectful and thoughtful think about these issues.
Q In your first video message to be sent in March of 2009, on the occasion of the Persian New Year, you spoke to the government of Iran, the people of Iran. And you talked about how you are committed to diplomacy. And you also said that this process of talking about all the issues on the table will only succeed if there’s no threats. And with threats, this will not go forward. Yet your administration in much of this year not only threatened Iran with sanctions but finally enacted sanctions that have been branded as “crippling.” What do you say to those who see this as a departure from that promise of no threats and diplomacy only?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we have to be -- we have to look at what we’ve done this year, and it’s very consistent. What I’ve said consistently is, is that we are willing to reach out with an open hand to the Iranian government and the Iranian people, because we believe that there’s nothing inevitable that should cause Iran and the United States to be enemies.
There’s a history there that is difficult. But it can be bridged with mutual understanding, mutual respect. And we want to see the people of Iran ultimately succeed. But the government has taken Iran on a path that has led to international condemnation. And I think it’s very important to understand that the sanctions that arose this year had to do with the fact that alone among signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has not been able to convince the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful. That’s not just my judgment; that’s the judgment of the international community, including countries like Russia and China that generally are very hesitant to impose sanctions on other countries. But they have consistently seen a behavior on the part of the Iranian government that indicates that it has a nuclear program that does not abide by international rules and that potentially poses a threat to the region as well as the world.
Now, that’s a choice that the Iranian regime has made. They can make another choice, and we would welcome them making another choice, which would be to act responsibly. They would then be able to have their rights for a peaceful nuclear program under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And that would remove the sanctions and would allow them to fully enter the international community in a way that would tremendously benefit the Iranian people. But we have not seen them make that choice yet. Read the rest