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Iran: Bush’s Mideast trip incited confrontation

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that President Bush sent a "message of confrontation" during his recent Mideast trip.
/ Source: Reuters

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that President Bush sent a "message of confrontation" during his recent Mideast trip.

Bush spent much of his visit to the region, which he wrapped up on Wednesday, rallying support among Arab allies for a strong stance against Iran — calling the country the world's top sponsor of terrorism.

"President George Bush sent a message to the Iranian people and all the nations worldwide," said Ahmadinejad during an interview in Farsi with Al Jazeera television. "This message reflects his own conceptions and it is a message of rift, a message of sowing the seeds of division. It is a message of confrontation demeaning the dignity of mankind."

Ahmadinejad also lashed out at Israel, a key U.S. ally in the Mideast, saying the country was "rapidly doomed to collapse."

"All these nations believe they (the Israelis) are a murderous group carrying arms and trying through threats to change their image," said Ahmadinejad.

Israel on Thursday successfully tested a new long-range missile, said senior defense officials speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the project. Israeli radio reports indicated the missiles are capable of being armed with nuclear warheads.

Ahmadinejad dismissed the missile test, saying Israel "lacks the courage to launch any attack against the Iranian state."

"They are aware that any attempt or strike will be confronted by a very strong response," added the Iranian president.

Strained relations  
Tensions between Iran and both Israel and the U.S. have remained high over Tehran's controversial nuclear activities. The U.S. and Israel claim Iran's program could be a pathway to nuclear weapons development, but Tehran insists its intentions are peaceful.

"They would like to deceive our people alleging that the nuclear capability would amount to a nuclear weapon," said Ahmadinejad on Thursday.

U.S. attempts to keep up international pressure against Iran were complicated by a December intelligence report saying Iran suspended its weapons development program in 2003 and has not restarted it.

Bush used his first major Mideast trip to stress to Arab allies that Iran's continued uranium enrichment — a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a bomb — still posed a threat to the region.

Sanctions imposed against Iran
The U.N. Security Council has passed two sets of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend enrichment. Germany and the five permanent Security Council members plan to meet Tuesday in Berlin for talks that diplomats say will include attempts finalize a third set of sanctions.

Ahmadinejad said the U.N. Security Council had no legal justification for focusing on Iran's nuclear program, claiming their sanctions were based on false information.

"If we pay close attention today, it is opportune time for the U.N. Security Council to rectify their false statements," said Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian president said his country's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency meant that the agency should be the only U.N. body with jurisdiction over the nuclear issue.

In November, a report by the agency said Iran had been generally truthful about key aspects of its nuclear history, but warned that its knowledge of Tehran's present nuclear work was shrinking.