Mon, Jan 16, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Iran's president says West has a `dark ages' mentality

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardline president of Iran, launched an angry tirade against the West on Saturday, accusing it of a "dark ages" mentality and threatening retaliation unless it recognized his country's nuclear ambitions.

In a blistering assault, Ahmadinejad repeated the Islamic regime's position that it would press ahead with a nuclear program despite threats by the EU and US to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, where it could face sanctions.

He added that Iran was a "civilized nation" that did not need such weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is a wholly peaceful attempt to generate electricity.

Addressing a rare press conference in Tehran, he appeared to issue thinly veiled threats against Western nations, implying that they could face serious consequences unless they backed down.

"You need us more than we need you. All of you today need the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said. "Why are you putting on airs? You don't have that might."

Reminding the West that it had supported the monarchical regime of the former Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi -- overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution -- he went on: "Those same powers have done their utmost to oppress us, but this nation, because of its dignity, has forgiven them to a large extent. But if they persist with their present stance, maybe the day will come when the Iranian nation will reconsider."

He added: "If they want to deny us our rights, we have ways to secure those rights."

Ahmadinejad, an ultra-Islamist populist elected last June, did not elaborate on his apparent threat. But Iran is the world's fourth largest oil producer and analysts have predicted that any disruption to its supplies could have a grave impact on global markets.

The Iranian president's outburst -- the latest in a series asserting Iran's nuclear rights and questioning Israel's right to exist -- came after the EU last week effectively abandoned two-and-a- half years of negotiations with the Iranians. The move came after Iran decided to remove UN seals at a nuclear plant in Natanz, enabling it to resume research into uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to produce a nuclear weapon.

The EU, backed by the US, is calling for an emergency meeting of the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to discuss Iran's possible referral to the security council. The next phase of the intensifying diplomatic pressure on Iran takes place in London today when officials from the EU, US, Russia and China gather to discuss strategy.

Ahmadinejad accused the West of misusing bodies such as the UN and IAEA.

"Why are you damaging the good name of the security council and IAEA for you own political purposes?" he asked. "Don't take away the credibility of legitimate forums. Your arsenals are full to the brim, yet when it's the turn of a nation such as mine to develop peaceful nuclear technology you object and resort to threats."

German Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler on Saturday called for travel restrictions on Iran's politicians. He told German radio that economic sanctions would be "a very dangerous path" and could hurt both sides. Germany is the biggest exporter to Iran.

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