Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is thought to be winning the worldwide PR world with his appearance this week at the U.N. He said many of the right things.

On Thursday, he explained that when he called for the destruction of Israel and dismissed the Holocaust as a myth, his issue was not with the Jewish people but with Zionists, “who are not Jews.”

“We love everyone in the world — Jews, Christians, Muslims, non-Muslims, non-Jews, non-Christians,” he said, adding “we are against ugly acts.”

“Everyone is respected. But I repeat, we are against aggression, occupation, killings. … We declare this in a loud voice,” he said.

…”We support … peace and permanent stability in Lebanon, and we will fall short of no measure in promoting this goal. Whether it’s in the cultural or spiritual support that we can render or whether it is the role that we can play in the international arena, we will do our best. And this is the fundamental principle of our foreign policy, and it does not preclude Lebanon,” he said.

At the news conference, Ahmadinejad also expressed love and affection for the American people, just as President Bush reached out to the Iranian people in his General Assembly speech on Tuesday. Ahmadinejad said he wished he had more time here to spend with them in person.

“The people of the United States are highly respected by us,” he said. “Many people in the United States believe in God and believe in justice.” He thanked the New York City police and security forces for protecting him during his stay here and apologized to New Yorkers for traffic disruptions from the arrival of world leaders to attend the U.N. General Assembly session.

But most important,

He said his country was ready to negotiate a suspension of uranium enrichment.

“We have said that under fair conditions and just conditions, we will negotiate about it,” he said.

Now no one believes all those oh-so-nice things he said. Surely, his actions speak louder than words. But words are the currency of diplomacy and with his invitation to negotiate, how does it hurt us to do so? Yet, this is still a pissing match.

But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran must suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing before any full-fledged negotiations.

“Iran has been told by the international community … that they should suspend and if they suspend the negotiations can begin. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think we need any further conditionality,” she told reporters after a Security Council meeting on Mideast peace.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov makes a key point

“I think that artificial timeframes do not work,” he said. “The quality of the agreement is much more important, and especially in this particular case there is no objective reason for any ultra-rush if you wish.”

If you listen to the NPR’s report last night on “All Things Considered,” he sounds like a politician who, at the very least, wants respect, which is a point I’ve made before.

The same point is made is yesterday’s AP story.

Ahmadinejad said the United States’ objection to Iran’s nuclear program — which he claims is for peacefully purposes only — was essentially aimed at aborting his country’s progress. And he said if the world stops treating his country as a subordinate, then things might be different.

“If they recognize that we too, as a nation, have rights … the concerns too will be removed,” he said.

Respect it a key issue in negotiating with the Muslim world. And why is it necessary for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment if it is willing to “ready to negotiate a suspension of uranium enrichment”? Even if they said yes before negotiations, what’s to stop them from restarting it? First and foremost, we need to find out what they want and what they’re willing to give to get it.

Because let’s face it: We have no options. We couldn’t attack Iran if we wanted to and such an attack would doom our children’s generation to decades of terrorism.