Monday, May 14, 2007

'They will repent:' Ahmadinejad vows 'severe retaliation' for any US attack

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday threatened "severe" retaliation if the United States attacked his country - a tough response to recent comments by the US vice president that Washington would prevent Iran from dominating the region. Ahmadinejad also said Iran had agreed for the benefit of the Iraqi people to meet with the US in Baghdad to discuss security in Iraq.

"They realize that if they make such a mistake the retaliation of Iran would be severe and they will repent," Ahmadinejad told a news conference in the United Arab Emirates. He was speaking through an interpreter.

"All people know they cannot strike us. Iran is capable of defending itself. It is a strong country," said Ahmadinejad.

He said the West could not stop Tehran pursuing its nuclear energy program. "Superpowers cannot prevent us from owning this energy."

Using stronger language than on Sunday when he called for US troops to leave the region, Ahmadinejad said Gulf countries should "get rid of" foreign forces, which he blamed for insecurity in the region.

"We in the Persian Gulf are faced by difficulties and enemies," he said. "They claim lack of security is the reason for their presence [but] the problem is the intervention of foreign powers."

Ahmadinejad said the Americans had overextended their welcome in the region and were advocating tough actions that reached beyond what their Arab allies wished.

Ahmadinejad said the US-allied Emirates backs Iran's position that the US military should leave the Gulf.

"This region won't allow other powers from thousands of miles away to threaten the region and create enmity," he said. "Our talks with our brothers in the United Arab Emirates reiterated this truth again and again." Emirati officials had no immediate comment.

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

"Both parties have confirmed the talks will take place in Baghdad in the presence of the Iraqi government," Ahmadinejad said Monday. "We decided we were ready and prepared to do this to support the Iraqi people."

"They know that their plans have failed in Iraq, their vision is wrong. As long as you are plotting against the Iraqi people, failure will be there day after day," said Ahmadinejad.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, flying to Moscow after talks with regional leaders, said there was agreement on a need to stop a flow of arms and fighters across borders to insurgents in Iraq.

Ahmadinejad later traveled to Oman, the second and final stop of his trip, where he was holding talks with Sultan Qaboos. Along with Iran, Oman is co-guardian of the strategic Strait of Hormuz entrance to the Gulf. It has consistently maintained good relations with Iran.

Ahmadinejad said relations with the Emirates had taken a "quantum leap," with the two countries agreeing to create a joint committee headed by their foreign ministers to boost cooperation in tourism, trade, energy and development.

"There's a willingness on both sides to upgrade relations," he said. "Relations between Iran and the UAE can be a model for all the countries of the region." Ahmadinejad appeared to be pushing his agenda at a time when the US administration's popularity in the region is at a low point. He said Iran is ready to band together in a Gulf-wide security alliance with Washington's traditional regional allies.

He also called for restoring diplomatic relations with Egypt that were broken in 1979, saying it would strengthen regional security and stability.

Dubai-based analyst Mustafa Alani said Tehran was trying to forge regional cooperation around joint interests and to push for an end to foreign troops in the region, a demand that Arab Gulf states would not support.

"The disappearance of the Americans in the region will make Iran emerge as a super regional power, this is a demand linked to their strategic ambitions," he said. "But they [Arab states] need foreign support in the region because there is a deep mistrust in the Iranians."

The UAE, which like its Gulf neighbors has voiced concern about Tehran's nuclear plans, on Sunday voiced support for a moderate approach to Iran's crisis with the West. - Agencies.

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