Sun, Aug 20, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Iran's president warns UK voters over Middle East

CRITICISM The Iranian leader said that the UK's support for Washington risked inflicting `lasting damage' to Britain's reputation among Muslims

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has urged British voters to throw Prime Minister Tony Blair's government out of office to prevent Britain being drawn into new foreign policy "disasters" in the Middle East.

Speaking to a British newspaper for the first time since he took power a year ago, Ahmadinejad told the London-based Guardian that Britain's failure to push for an early ceasefire in the war in Lebanon, and its continuing role in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, were doing "lasting damage" to its reputation among Muslims. The Iranian president also suggested that the UN security council's failure to act sooner in the Lebanon crisis had undermined its ability to deal credibly with the dispute over Iran's nuclear program that will come to a head next week.

"The British people should stop supporting governments that are waging war in the Middle East such as their own government, the United States government and Israel," Ahmadinejad said during a visit to Bile Savar in Ardabil Province, Iran.

"The United States wants to create a `new Middle East.' But only the people of the Middle East can do this. They want a Middle East that is free from US and British domination," he said.

He said Britain's collaboration with Washington meant it could become involved in more Middle East conflicts.

"This is risking more disasters. This is doing lasting damage to the reputation of Britain among ordinary people," he said.

The Iranian leader warned that the age of international dominance by the US and a handful of other countries was drawing to a close: "They are trying to deny our right to develop nuclear power. But no one can impose anything on the Iranian people. They will not succeed."

"This arrogance will not last forever. Soon you will see the great powers kicked out of their throne," he said.

Ahmadinejad's outspoken criticism may reflect official nervousness that Britain could back US air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities if no settlement of the dispute is reached.

The US, Britain, France and Germany suspect Iran is trying to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, a charge Tehran denies. A UN security council resolution passed on July 31 ordering Iran to suspend uranium enrichment by Aug. 31 or face possible sanctions has been denounced as "illegal" by Ahmadinejad.

Tehran says sanctions will have no effect on its nuclear programs. Iran is expected to deliver its response to the west's compromise nuclear package tomorrow or Tuesday.

Blair's office in Downing Street, London, said on Friday: "President Ahmadinejad has said publicly that he wants Israel wiped off the map, and denies the Holocaust. This is a regime that funds, arms and glorifies terrorism, thinks nothing of undermining its neighbors' stability and, most worryingly, that is trying to acquire a nuclear weapon. The international community is working hard to prevent this happening."

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