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Iranian president: Overall Columbia experience was positive

  • Story Highlights
  • Iranian president says he enjoyed visit at Columbia University
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday
  • University president slammed Ahmadinejad in his introduction
  • Ahmadinejad says he values the debate, discussion over the issues he raised
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday his overall experience at Columbia University was a good one, even though he was introduced as a "petty and cruel dictator."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was criticized when introduced at Columbia University on Monday.

"What really mattered was that several thousand students came to meet a teacher who doesn't teach there, but they sat down with me for over one hour," he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"We debated, we talked, they heard and thought about the issues that I raised and that, to me, was most valuable."

Ahmadinejad spoke at the the Ivy League institution Monday.

Before his talk, Columbia President Lee Bollinger -- who had been criticized by some for extending an invitation to the Iranian leader to speak -- called the Iranian leader's denial of the Holocaust "ridiculous."

"For the illiterate and ignorant, this is dangerous propaganda," he said. He called the Iranian leader "either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated."

Ahmadinejad opened his remarks by saying Bollinger's introduction was discourteous, intellectually dishonest and inaccurate.Video Watch Iranian president talk with CNN »

About his reception, Ahmadinejad said, "I wish that hadn't happened, but nonetheless I think academic students and universities have the ability to make their own judgments, to keep themselves away from such pressures and expand their horizons."

Dialogue between people of opposing views serves to increase tolerance, and universities are an appropriate forum for such dialogue to occur, he said.

"People should go there to listen to one another and, at the same time, the environment should be friendly," said Ahmadinejad.

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He said the meetings he participated in at Columbia and the United Nations, where he addressed the General Assembly on Tuesday, represented "a lot of important work in helping increase the ability of people to listen together, towards peace, towards justice, towards compassion and towards brotherhood around the world."

But his meeting with CNN on Wednesday was an abbreviated one -- limited to one question after an earlier agreement to a 15-minute interview. The reasons for the restrictions were unclear. Amanpour asked two questions. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Mahmoud AhmadinejadColumbia University

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