Iranian Reponds to Ahmadinejad's U.S. Visit Mehrdad Shahabi, a business owner in Tehran, talks with Madeleine Brand about local reaction to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia University and his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
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Iranian Reponds to Ahmadinejad's U.S. Visit

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Iranian Reponds to Ahmadinejad's U.S. Visit

Iranian Reponds to Ahmadinejad's U.S. Visit

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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Alex Cohen.

In a few minutes, polygamist Warren Jeffs is found guilty. We'll have reaction and find out what's next for his followers in Utah.

BRAND: First, reaction now from Iran to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech is here in the U.S. over the past couple of days. At the U.N. yesterday, he spoke of Iran's right to pursue nuclear energy and repeatedly criticized the big powers for the problems facing the world today.

President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (Iran): (Through translator) Is it not high time for these powers to return from the path of arrogance and obedience to Satan to the path of faith in God?

BRAND: Joining us now is Mehrdad Shahabi. He is a director of a shipping business in Tehran. And welcome to the program.

Mr. MEHRDAD SHAHABI (Businessman): Thank you very much, Madeleine.

BRAND: Well, tell me did you watch the speeches or hear them?

Mr. SHAHABI: Yes, I watched those speeches. Yes.

BRAND: And what was your reaction?

Mr. SHAHABI: Well, positive, positive. I think he clarified many of the points, which were misrepresented to the American public by the U.S. administration.

BRAND: Such as?

Mr. SHAHABI: Such as, well, he clarified the Iranian position regarding the nuclear issue. He clarified his position regarding Iran's ascent towards Israel, especially where he stressed that what he means by his comments is that we should go to a referendum. If we believe in democracy - and this is what the United States says and emphasizes on - then the United States should be too happy that, well, the president of Iran proposes a referendum to go to the Palestinian population, consisting of the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians, and to ask for their viewpoints.

BRAND: Here, after his speeches, President Ahmadinejad's stock, well, it didn't rise at all. In fact, it dropped quite a bit here in the opinions of Americans. But from what I've been reading, I understand that quite the opposite happened in Iran - that he has actually improved his standing among Iranians. Is that true?

Mr. SHAHABI: Yes, very much so. I did not vote in favor of Ahmadinejad. In fact, I voted in favor of a candidate who was totally opposed to Ahmadinejad in everything. And what I enjoyed in the speech, he was very right in most of the things he raised. He clarified his positions. He clarified Iran's positions. He referred to the atrocities committed by the neoconservatives in power in the United States now.

And it was not only my position when I went to work this morning, I discussed the matter with my friends - with two of my friends. Both of them have the same views as me. They did not vote for Ahmadinejad. They did not agree with him in everything - well, maybe in certain things, but they also liked his speech, and they very much impressed. So his standing has been improved a great deal. And I think that is because of the staunch views of the neoconservatives and the hostility with which he was welcomed in the United States.

BRAND: I understand there was a lot of criticism of Lee Bollinger, the president of...

Mr. SHAHABI: Exactly.

BRAND: ...Columbia University for the comments he made introducing Ahmadinejad.

Mr. SHAHABI: Yes. Yes. In fact, it was not an introduction address. It was a bunch of insults to a guest.

BRAND: So will Ahmadinejad come away from this, do you think, with more power in Iran?

Mr. SHAHABI: Well, I like him much more than I did before. In fact, I was very much critical of some of his views before, but now that we are facing a national crisis, the Bush administration - Bush and Cheney are openly threatening our country to a war, and not only a conventional war, an atomic war, an atomic attack on Iran. I think we would stand united and we would stand behind his government when it comes to matters of Iranian sovereignty, when it comes to matter of Iranian integrity. Yes - the most important issue to any Iranian is the sovereignty of Iran.

BRAND: Well, Mr. Shahabi, thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. SHAHABI: Thank you. Thanks a lot.

BRAND: That's Mehrdad Shahabi, a business owner in Tehran, Iran.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: And if you'd like more analysis of President Ahmadinejad's visit, you can go to

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