Mark S. Smith
NEW YORK: President Barack Obama on Friday condemned as ''offensive'' and ''hateful'' the suggestion of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the 9/11 attacks might have been orchestrated by the U.S. government.
The president's remarks in an interview with BBC Persian Television came a day after the Iranian leader included the incendiary comment in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. It prompted a walkout by the U.S. delegation and others.
''For him to make a statement like that was inexcusable,'' Obama told BBC Persian Television in an interview at his New York hotel. ''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.''
In his Thursday speech, Ahmadinejad suggested it's worth investigating allegations that ''some segments within the U.S. government'' orchestrated the attacks in a bid to aid Israel.
U.S. officials immediately denounced the remarks as ''abhorrent'' and accused Ahmadinejad of trafficking in conspiracy theories.
In Obama's U.N. address earlier Thursday, he reiterated calls for Iran to end its nuclear defiance and prove to the world its uranium enrichment program is purely peaceful. But he also said the door remains open to talks that could end Iran's sanctions and isolation.
Tehran has recently indicated interest in restarting talks with the West. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany made another offer Wednesday to enter negotiations.
White House officials said the president agreed to the interview because of the audience of millions who listen to the BBC Farsi-language services inside Iran on radio, television and via the Internet.
''Iran is a very dynamic new media society,'' said Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes. ''We anticipate lots of blogging, lots of interest.''