TODAY   |  September 12, 2011

A day in the life of Iran’s president

TODAY’s Ann Curry is in Iran, where she was given exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of the world’s most secretive and controversial leaders.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> 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.