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Monday, May 14, 2007

Do we really need this right now?

This just in from the Times Online:

Iran 'will fight back if America attacks'

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran today threatened severe retaliation if the United States attacked his country.

Mr Ahmadinejad told a news conference in the United Arab Emirates that Iran would not hesitate to launch military reprisals if the row with the West over Iran's illicit nuclear programme escalated to the point of violence.

“They realise that if they make such a mistake the retaliation of Iran would be severe and they will repent,” Mr Ahmadinejad said, speaking through an interpreter.

“All people know they cannot strike us. Iran is capable of defending itself. It is a strong country.”

The West could not stop Tehran from pursuing its nuclear energy programme, he said. “Superpowers cannot prevent us from owning this energy.”

The Iranian president’s comments followed those by Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, who said on Friday from the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf that the US and its allies would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

The US, which has a strong military presence in the Gulf, accuses Iran of wanting to produce nuclear weapons. It has sought tougher UN sanctions against Tehran. Iran says it wants only to generate electricity to allow more oil exports.

Using stronger language than yesterday, when he called for US troops to leave the region, Mr Ahmadinejad said that Gulf countries should “get rid of” foreign forces, which he blamed for regional insecurity.

He was speaking during a visit to the UAE, a US ally which, like Iran’s other Gulf Arab neighbours, has expressed concern about Tehran’s nuclear plans.

“We in the Persian Gulf are faced by difficulties and enemies. Those do not want the region to live in safety," he said.

"Peace can be achieved by getting rid of these forces. They intervene in the region and make it insecure.

"They claim that lack of security is the reason for their presence (but) the problem is the intervention of foreign powers.”

Despite the tense words, the US and Iran announced yesterday that they have agreed to meet in Baghdad to discuss security and stability in Iraq.

Today Mr Ahmadinejad said that Iran had agreed to the talks in order to help the Iraqi people.

“The Americans, in order to solve the security situation in Iraq, requested to talk to Iran," he said.

"In order to support the Iraqi people we will talk to them. It (the meeting) will take place in Baghdad in the presence of the Iraqi government,” he said, adding that a date for the talks had yet to be set.

The White House announced yesterday that US and Iranian officials would meet in the next few weeks in Baghdad about security in Iraq, confirming a similar announcement by Tehran.

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