Tehran: Iran`s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that homosexuality is "against the human spirit”, the ILNA news agency reported.
In a 2007 speech at New York`s Columbia University, he notoriously said, "In Iran we don`t have homosexuals like in your country", skirting a question about the treatment of gays in the Islamic republic infamously.
He was met with howls and boos from the audience and his remarks were later widely criticised by rights groups.
Addressing officials in the city of Yazd on Thursday, he said: "They asked me (at Columbia) why you crack down on homosexuals in Iran? I answered we don`t have so many homosexuals in Iran because we believe this act is against the human spirit and humanity."
Gay sex is banned and punishable by death under Iran`s sharia-based law. Transvestites are also arrested in the country, where observing the Islamic dress code for women is mandatory.
However, the state allows sex-change operations for transsexuals.
Ahmadinejad further criticised Western culture, saying its people are "lost in a desert of lust," and also took aim at his own country`s family-planning policy, the Ilna news agency reported.
"We do not want man lost in the desert of lust but we want man up in heaven," he was quoted as telling in Yazd.
Rejecting Iran`s successful family-planning programme, he told Iranians to procreate, boasting an "Iranian-Islamic" development model can "conquer the world”.
"The `two kids are enough` motto belongs to the West`s humanist and liberal system that says `children are a nuisance, go have fun’," he said of a nearly two-decade-old policy that encourages small families and makes contraceptives free of charge.
In recent years, Ahmadinejad has mocked the policy on several occasions.
"When we said two kids are not enough some opposed it. The two-kids-enough model destroys nations. What would happen in fifty years? The same thing that happened in Europe would befall us," he said.
In 1993, Iran introduced population-control policies in response to the baby boom that followed the 1979 Islamic revolution, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini urged Iranians to have more kids.
Since then, the annual population growth rate has dipped to about 1.6 percent from 3.2 percent in the early 1980s, earning the country a United Nations award for the effectiveness of its programme.
Ahmadinejad insists Iran could comfortably more than double its population to 150 million people from the current estimate of 74 million, and yesterday called for pursuing an "Iranian-Islamic model" of development.
"With this model we can conquer the whole world," he said.
(With PTI inputs)