In case you missed it... here's the transcript of Mike Wallace's interview with Iranian President Mahoud Ahmadinejad on the situation in the Middle East and relations with the U.S. Also, you've got a special opportunity tonight. At 20:00, C-SPAN will air the interview just as it appeared last night on 60 Minutes, followed by the full 90-minute interview, to give viewers a window on what is left on the cutting room floor:
MIKE WALLACE: When Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks out candidly, and he does it a lot, he scares a lot of people. He has said more than once that Israel should be wiped off the map and that the Holocaust is an overblown fairytale. Interviewing him in Tehran this past week, it became apparent that he sees the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, that militia Iran has long supported, as part of a larger battle between the U.S. and a militant Islam for control of the Middle East.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Very clearly I will tell you that I fully oppose the behavior of the British and the Americans.
Q: Oh, yes, I know that you do.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) They are providing state of the art military hardware to the Zionists and they are throwing their full support behind Israel. We believe that this threatens the future of all peoples, including the American and European peoples, so we are asking why the American government is blindly supporting this murderous regime.
Q: Wait, wait, wait, wait.
Q: (Narrating interview.) I tried to ask him then about Hezbollah's use of missiles - rockets furnished by Iran, but he wanted to talk about Israel's attacks with American bombs. The voice you hear, by the way, is his personal interpreter.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Their laser-guided bombs have been given to the Zionists and they're targeting the shelter of defenseless children and women.
Q: Who supports Hezbollah? Who has given Hezbollah hundreds of millions of dollars for years? Who has given Hezbollah Iranian-made missiles and rockets that is making - that are making all kinds - may I ask my question, please, sir?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Are you the representative of the Zionist regime or a journalist?
Q: I am a journalist. I am a journalist.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) This is not journalism, sir. Hezbollah is a popular organization in Lebanon and they are defending their land.
Q: Oh, really?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) They are defending their own houses. And according to the charter of the United Nations, every person has the right to defend his house. What I'm saying is that the killing of innocents is reprehensible and the displacement of people and making them refugees again is reprehensible.
Q: Wait a minute. Hezbollah is displacing and damaging and making bleed all kinds of people. You know that.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Please tell me, are the Lebanese inside the occupied lands right now, or is it the other way around - that the Zionist troops are in Lebanese territory? Lebanon is defending its independence. We are not at all happy with war. That is why on the first day we condemned these recent conflicts and we asked for an immediate ceasefire.
Q: (Narrating interview.) He told us the United Nations Security Council has not been effective in Lebanon because the Security Council is in America's pocket.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, the reason is that the UNSC is there to safeguard the interests of the British and the Americans. They are not there to provide security. It's very clear.
Q: The UNCS - the United Nations Security Council - is there to protect the interests of the United States and the British? That's what you say?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) It has been created to help with peace and justice, but we see that it is not responding to atrocities. If we search for the root causes, we see the hand of the British and the Americans. People - innocent people are being killed.
Q: (Narrating interview.) And he told us the Security Council is also doing America's bidding by trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear energy. The Security Council is demanding that Iran stop all uranium enrichment by the end of this month, which Iran is refusing to do.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) But if Mr. Bush thinks that he can stop our progress, I have to say that he will be unable to do that.
Q: What do you mean?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) We want to have access to nuclear technology. We want to produce fuel. Do you not think that the most important issue of the world of tomorrow that it will be energy? We think that Mr. Bush's team and the parties that support him want to monopolize energy resources in the world because once they have that, they can impose their opinions, points of view, policies on other nations. And of course line their own pockets.
Q: President Bush has said - vowed he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Do you believe him?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Basically, we are not looking for - working for the bomb. The problem that President Bush has that in his mind he wants to solve everything with bombs. The time of the bomb is in the past. It's behind us. Today is the era of thoughts, dialogue, and cultural exchanges.
Q: (Narrating interview.) But dialogue and cultural exchanges do not sound like his policy toward Israel.
Q: Israel, you have said time and again, Israel must be wiped off the map. Please explain why, and what is Iran doing about that?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, allow me to finish with the nuclear dossier first.
Q: Oh, you finished with that. You finished with that. Tell me -
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) No, it's not finished, sir. It's not finished. We are just beginning.
Q: Okay. That's what I was afraid of, but go.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, the Americans are overly sensitive, and of course the American government. I don't know why they're opposed to Iranian progress.
Q: The United States is against Iranian progress and development?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) That is true. That is what I am saying.
Q: Ah, you know that's not so.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, I'm going to explain. Before the revolution, the German, French, American governments and the Canadian government had signed contracts with us to produce nuclear fuel inside Iran, but immediately after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, their opposition started. Right now, they are opposed to our nuclear technology. Now, why is that?
Q: Because the U.S. is convinced that nuclear energy is just a smokescreen, that what Iran really wants is the bomb.
Q: (Narrating interview.) Then I tried to get the president back to his most inflammatory statement.
Q: You are very good at filibustering. You still have not answered the question. You still have not answered the question: Israel must be wiped off the map. Why?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, don't be hasty, sir. I'm going to get to that.
Q: I'm not hasty.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I think that the Israeli government is a fabricated government.
Q: (Narrating interview.) Fabricated following the Holocaust, which he has said may also have been fabricated.
Q: Last December, you said this: "The Europeans created a myth - the Holocaust." A myth?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) What I did say was that if this is a reality, if this is real, where did it take place?
Q: In Germany.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) There are (unintelligible).
Q: In Germany.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Who caused this in Europe?
Q: In Europe. What you are suggesting - one moment - what you are suggesting, then, that Israel should be over in Germany because that's where the Holocaust took place?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I'm not saying that, mind you.
Q: (Narrating interview.) But he has said Israel could be moved to Europe or even to the United States, but it should not be in Palestine.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, if an atrocity was committed in Germany, or Europe for that matter, why should the Palestinians answer for this? They had no role to play in this. Why on the pretext of the Holocaust they have occupied Palestine? Millions of people have been made refugees. Thousands of people to date have been killed, sir. Thousands of people have been put in prison. Well, at the very moment, a great war is raging because of that.
Q: Look, if you could - if you could keep your answers concise, I beg you, we'll get more questions in.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, one of your questions requires - all of your questions require a book-long answer. If you want me to just finish the interview, please tell me and we can wrap up right now.
Q: No, no, no, no, no.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Do you perhaps want me to say what you want me to say? Am I to understand -
Q: No. No.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) If that is the case, then I ask you to please be patient. Maybe these days you don't have a lot of patience to spare. Maybe these are words that you don't like to hear, Mr. Wallace.
Q: Why? What words do I not like to hear?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Because I think that you're getting angry.
Q: I couldn't be happier for the privilege of sitting down with the president of Iran.
Q: (Narrating interview.) And with that established, I moved on to Iraq.
Q: I am told that your Revolutionary Guards, Mr. President, are taking bombs - those roadside bombs, the IEDs, into Iraq. And what they are doing is furnishing the insurgents in Iraq with the kind of material that can kill U.S. soldiers. Why would you want to do that?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) We are very saddened that the people of Iraq are being killed. I believe that the rulers of the U.S. have to change their mentality. I ask you, sir, what is the American army doing inside Iraq? Iraq has a government, a parliament, Iraq has a civilized nation with a long history of civilization. These are people we are dealing with. Why are the Americans killing -
Q: Was Saddam -
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) - Iraqis on a daily basis?
Q: Was Saddam a civilized, reasonable leader? Were we wrong to go into Iraq?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, Saddam's story has been finished for close to three years I would say. He belongs in the past.
Q: I just asked -
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) And the Americans are openly saying that we are here for the long run, in Iraq that is. So a question for you: according to international law, the responsibility of providing security rests on the shoulder of the occupation - occupying, rather, army. So I ask them, why are they not providing security.
Q: (Narrating interview.) Instead of security, he says the U.S. is oppressing Iraq. And instead of calling the United States the great Satan, as the Ayatollah Khomeini did, he calls the U.S. the great oppressor.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) We are opposed to oppression. We support whoever is victimized and oppressed, even the oppressed people of the U.S.
Q: (Narrating interview.) A senior European diplomat in Tehran told us that Iran's president feels the United States should be confronted in Iraq and around the world because he truly believes that the U.S. government is against Islam and the developing world, that America keeps pushing Iran and other countries around, and he is determined to push back. When 60 Minutes continues, the president of Iran lets fly at the president of the United States.
Q: (Narrating interview.) The Bush administration paints Iran's president as America's mortal enemy, as a man who wants nuclear weapons and supports Islamic terrorists. For his part, President Ahmadinejad views the United States as his major adversary. He is the son of a blacksmith, was a commando during the Iran-Iraq war, has a Ph.D. in civil engineering, and became president a year ago by running as a populist man of the people. He is savvy, self-assured, self- righteous. But he rarely gives interviews to American journalists. His last U.S. newspaper interview was six months ago in USA Today.
But he sat down with us because he wanted to speak directly to the American people and to President Bush.
Q: What do you think of George Bush as a man and as commander- in-chief of the so-called free world.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, the so-called says everything.
Q: What do you think of George W. Bush?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) What do you think I should think about the gentleman?
Q: Come on. Come on. You're perfectly capable of handling that question, if you have the courage to answer it.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, thank you very much. So you are teaching me how to be bold and courageous. That's interesting.
Q: (Chuckles.) Answer the question.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I think that Mr. Bush can be in the service of his own people. He can save the American economy without killing people, without occupation, without threats. I am very saddened to hear that 1 percent of the total population is in prisons, and 45 million people don't have a healthcare coverage. That is very sad to hear.
Q: (Narrating interview.) And he was sad also not to hear any answer from President Bush to an 18-page letter he had sent Mr. Bush three months ago urging him to be less bellicose in his view of the world. The White House dismissed the letter as a publicity stunt.
Q: What did you expect to hear back from President Bush?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I was expecting Mr. Bush to give up, or I should say to change his behavior. I was hoping to open a new window for the gentleman. One can certainly look on the world from other perspectives. You can love the people. You can love all people. You can talk with the people of the Middle East using another language, other words. Instead of blind support for an imposed regime they can establish a more appropriate relationship with the people of the region.
Q: You can love the people. That's very easy for you to say. You despise certain people. You despise the Zionists.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, I don't despise people, or individuals I should say.
Q: You despise Zionist leaders.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) What we are saying - what I am saying is that I despise heinous action.
Q: (Narrating interview.) And as for his letter to Mr. Bush,
Q: In the letter, you praise Jesus and ask President Bush how he could be a follower of Christ and claim to support human rights, but at the same time attack and occupy other countries, kill thousands of people, spend billions of dollars on wars, and you urged him - the president - out of respect for the teachings of Christ to be a force for peace instead of war. Is that so?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) That is true. This was a part of my letter.
Q: (Narrating interview.) And then he had a new message for President Bush.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) But please give him this message, sir. Those who refuse to accept an invitation to good will not have a good ending or fate.
Q: What does that mean?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, you see that his approval rating is dropping every day. Hatred vis-?-vis the president is increasing every day around the world. For a ruler, this is the worst message that he could receive. Rulers and heads of government at the end of their office must leave the office holding their heads high.
Q: One of your assistants, one of your aides just gave you a note. What is he telling you?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Yes, they have told me to rearrange my jacket. (Laughter.)
Q: Why are they worried about your jacket? I think you look just fine.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) That is right. They have told me the same thing. They tell me that it's a very nice looking coat.
Q: Are you a vain man?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Sometimes appearance is - yes, you have to look your best.
Q: Let me reassure you -
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) That is why I comb my hair.
Q: Let me assure you, you look your best.
What do you do for leisure?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I do many things. I have many hobbies?
Q: For instance?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I study. I read books. I exercise. And of course I spend some time - quality time with my family.
Q: You have three children?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, you know very well, sir.
Q: How long has it been since the leaders of Iran and the leaders of the U.S. have had any conversations?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Twenty-six, 27 years.
Q: Do you have the least desire to resume relations with the United States?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Should we do that?
Q: Do you have that desire?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Who cut the relations, I ask you.
Q: That's not the point. The question is: would you, the president of Iran, like to resume relationships which have been gone for 26, 27 years, with the United States?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, we are interested to have relations with all governments and all nations.
Q: No, no, no. Please answer -
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) This is a principle of my foreign policy.
Q: I know that.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Allow me to finish my thought.
Q: Why don't you just answer? Say yes or no?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, you asked me a three-minute long question and you are asking for a yes or no answer?
Q: No, no, no I didn't. No, it's a very simple question.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) So is this a multiple choice?
Q: Do you want to - (laughs).
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) A, B, C, D?
Q: Do you want to have relations now, after 26, 27 years, with the United States? What harm could come from that?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) We are not talking about harm. The conditions - conducive conditions have to be there.
Q: And what are those conducive conditions?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, please look at the makeup of the American administration, the behavior of the American administration. See how they talk down to my nation? They want to build an empire and they don't want to live side by side in peace with other nations.
Q: Who? Who does not? Washington does not?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) The American government, sir. It is very clear to me. They have to change their behavior and everything will be resolved.
Q: I am told that your aides want us to wind up our interview, but you kindly promised to answer my questions and I still have just a few left.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, you might have five more hours of questions.
Q: Well, of course I might.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, I have other appointments to get to, sir.
Q: Oh, none more important than this, Mr. President. One more.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) It's time for the night prayers.
Q: Last one. Your - you have a special unit of martyr seekers in your Revolutionary Guard. They claim they have 52,000 trained suicide bombers ready to attack American and British targets if America should attack Iran.
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) So are you expecting the Americans to threaten us and we sit idly by and watch them -
Q: And -
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) - with our hands tied?
Q: And have Americans threatened you?
AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I do hope that the Americans will give up this practice of threatening other nations so that you are not forced to ask me such questions. I wish you well and further success.
Q: Thank you, sir.