Bush sending 'message of confrontation' to Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that George Bush sent a “message of confrontation” during his recent trip to the Middle East.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that George Bush sent a “message of confrontation” during his recent trip to the Middle East.

The US president spent much of his visit to the region, which ended 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,” Mr Ahmadinejad told 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.”

The Iranian president said Mr Bush’s statements were made for domestic political reasons.

“They are in need of these statements for their presidential race,” said Mr Ahmadinejad. “However, these statements increase the sentiment of resentment of the Iranian people against the US officials.”

Mr Ahmadinejad also lashed out at Israel, a key US ally in the Middle East, 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 yesterday successfully tested a new long-range missile, officials said. Israeli radio reports indicated the missiles are capable of being armed with nuclear warheads.

Mr 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.

Tensions between Iran and both Israel and the US have remained high over Tehran’s controversial nuclear activities. The US and Israel claim Iran’s programme could be a road to nuclear weapons development, but Tehran insists its intentions are peaceful.

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

Mr Bush used his first major Middle East 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.

The UN 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 on Tuesday in Berlin for talks that diplomats say will include attempts to finalise a third set of sanctions.

:: Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi urged renewed talks on Iran’s nuclear programme in remarks to Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator, it was reported today.

“The Iranian nuclear issue is now at a crucial moment,” Mr Yang said in a meeting with Saeed Jalili, a hard-liner who replaced moderate Ali Larijani in October.

“China hopes all concerned parties, including Iran, make joint efforts to resume negotiations as soon as possible in a bid to promote the comprehensive and proper settlement of this issue,” Mr Yang said.

Mr Jalili told Mr Yang that Iran’s nuclear programme was “completely of a peaceful nature.”

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