Video: A day in the life of Iran’s president

  1. Closed captioning of: A day in the life of Iran’s president

    >> tehran, iran , where she was given exclusive access to the iranian president mahmoud ahmadinejad . ann, good morning to you.

    >> reporter: good morning to you, savannah. that's right. we were granted the first ever behind-the-scenes access to the daily schedule of iran 's president ahmadinejad . drawing back a curtain on one of the world's most controversial and secretive leaders. after his 5:00 a.m . prayer, president ahmadinejad --

    >> good morning, mr. president.

    >> good morning.

    >> reporter: walks from his private residence in the presidential compound to his daily workout. jogging with his security team at times seemingly rocky style. before sunrise . then to the gym often lifting weights or cycling. concerned about staying healthy, president ahmadinejad exercises more than 30 minutes every morning and reaches his spacious but simple office before 7:00 a.m . and there he works without shoes but alt 54 with reading glasses. first up scanning local newspapers and briefs including what western media are reporting. by 8:00 he's on his way. on this day to a gathering of prominent shia muslim leaders. he's called to promote iran as a shia superstate. by 9:40 he's boarding a government 707, more than 50 years old. the flying relic is likely a result of western sanctions long imposed against iran . even during the flight he's meet meeting with ministers. that's the norm his aides say claiming he sleeps just three hours a night and that his days often stretch to 2:00 a.m . they say even iran's supreme leader has advised him to sleep more. in his six years as president, ahmadinejad has visited each province at least three times and every city in each province. at 11:45 after an hour flight we land at remote korizan province. he first stops at a bazaar meeting local artisans. speaking to some, even in everyday english.

    >> mr. president, why have you made this point to come to one of the poorest parts of iran to highlight the art and the crafts?

    >> translator: i want to show that we have some common humanity. human values . do

    >> reporter: all the nations of the world ? including the united states ?

    >> translator: everywhere wherever there is a human.

    >> reporter: keeping a grueling schedule what is your primary motivation, mr. president? why do you work so hard?

    >> translator: we barely started working.

    >> reporter: mindful this is one of the poorest parts of his country at 12:50 he's on the move again. to review government subsidized housing . iran 's poor masses are his base. 26,000 families here alone have gotten homes. these women agree the homes are far better than the ones they used to live in. but as the president attempts to leave, he is surrounded. swarmed by people pleading for food and other necessities. now dramatically more expensive because of rising inflation. later in the afternoon -- this man tells the president he lost three sons in iran 's war with iraq and now his wife is sick. the president showing a compassionate side, perhaps trying to remake his image at home and abroad. at 6:35 he lands back in tehran. what is the future for iran ?

    >> translator: i want the same future as i want for every nation in the world, peace, friendship, happiness and unity.

    >> reporter: at 7:30 back at the presidential compound for hours for more meetings. he stops to pray for the fifth time on this day. and then in darkness he returns to work expected to go until midnight when night comes day again. president ahmadinejad is about to appear once again on the world stage when he speaks are for the united nations general assembly but in a signs that his controversial rhetoric has not changed on sunday he reiterated his position that 9/11 was "a complicated plan devised as a pretext for the occupation of afghanistan and iraq." there is a lot to ask about including new concerns about their nuclear ambitions and we are now working to bring you that interview tomorrow morning on "today." now back to you, savannah.

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/12/2011 11:20:58 AM ET 2011-09-12T15:20:58

Iran's first nuclear power plant stepped up operations Monday after more than a decade of delays, pumping out electricity at up to 40 percent capacity and marking a major step forward in the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

The Bushehr nuclear plant — which officials say could begin full-power operations in December — is also a cornerstone of Iran's drive to become a technological leader among Muslim nations with efforts such as a space program and long-range missile development.

The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the claim and says it only seeks reactors for energy and scientific research.

The head of the U.N. nuclear agency, Yukiya Amano, announced plans Monday to publish new information backing up his belief that Iran may be working on a nuclear warhead — developments that leave his organization "increasingly concerned."

This is the first time the International Atomic Energy Agency chief revealed plans to release some of the most recent knowledge available to the IAEA leading to such worries.

But Amano also had some positive words for Iran, saying it had demonstrated "greater transparency" than usual, in allowing a senior IAEA official to tour previously restricted nuclear sites last month.

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Nuke plant celebrations
Senior Iranian and Russian officials attended celebrations Monday for the official launch of the 1000-megawatt Bushehr power plant on the Gulf.

The Bushehr plant began to generate between 350 to 400 megawatts of electricity, equal to 35 to 40 percent of the reactor's full capacity.

The Russian-built plant was connected to the national power grid for a test run Sept. 4, generating 60 megawatts.

Image: A security official talks to journalists in front of Bushehr main nuclear reactor
Raheb Homavandi  /  Reuters
A security official talks to journalists in front of Bushehr main nuclear reactor.

Iranian Vice President Fereidoun Abbasi told State TV that full-capacity operations are expected to begin in December after a series of additional tests.

"The facility will reach its full capacity — that means 1,000 megawatts — in December," the TV quoted Abbasi as saying.

Russia's Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko called the launch a "big celebration" and a symbol of Tehran-Moscow cooperation, although there are no current plans for Russian help with future reactors planned by Iran.

The launch of the plant has been delayed for more than a decade over technical and construction setbacks.

Although the West has been deeply suspicious of Iran's nuclear aims, Washington has not opposed Iran's push for atomic reactors for energy and research.

Last October, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a clear distinction between Bushehr and other nuclear efforts — such as uranium enrichment — that Washington worries could lead to weapons production.

"Iran is entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear power," she said after speaking at a U.N. Security Council meeting. "They are not entitled to a nuclear weapons program."

Russia has promised to have full oversight of the nuclear fuel used in the plant.

1974 project
The Bushehr project dates back to 1974, when Iran's U.S.-backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi contracted with the German company Siemens to build the reactor. The company withdrew from the project after the 1979 Islamic Revolution toppled the shah and brought hard-line clerics to power.

In 1992, Iran signed a $1 billion deal with Russia to complete the project. Work began in 1995 with a timetable to begin operations in 1999.

Earlier this year, foreign intelligence reports said the plant's control systems were penetrated by Stuxnet, a malicious computer software.

Iran maintained that Stuxnet was only found on several laptops belonging to plant employees and didn't affect the facility.

Tehran later blamed the U.S. and Israel of being behind Stuxnet, saying the worm was part of a covert plan by Iran's enemies to sabotage its nuclear program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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