Iran rejects Western 'pressure'

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, said that Tehran will oppose "any excessive demands" from world powers, as he visited Malaysia to seek backing for his country's nuclear programme.

    Iran tries to drum up support for its nuclear programme

    In a speech to Malaysian business people on Thursday, he accused his critics of trying to destroy Iran's national identity and ensuring that developing countries remain impoverished.

    Ahmadinejad said: "We need to stand up against this torrent of hegemony. We oppose any excessive demands these powers put on us, we support the dignity of all men, any race, and any religion. Men should be treated equally, no one should be ridiculed."

    Ahmadinejad's visit is part of an Iranian campaign to drum up support before a meeting next week of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which could decide to take Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

    Also on Thursday, a spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said Britain, Germany and France had agreed to meet Iranian negotiators to discuss Tehran's disputed nuclear programme on Friday, just days before the UN nuclear watchdog's governing board meets.

    He said "a ministerial level meeting is planned between the EU3 and Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Friday", but added: "We have no new proposals."

    China's appeal

    At the same time, China urged Iran to "fully co-operate" with the IAEA and suspend nuclear enrichment activities, adding to rising international pressure on Tehran in advance of a key meeting.

    A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said in Beiing: "China hopes Iran will fully co-operate with the agency and clarify the unresolved questions about its nuclear programme and will restore the international community's confidence in Iran.

    Ahmedinejad was given a warm
    welcome by Malaysia's Badawi

    Iran says that its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating electricity, but it is facing demands from the UN nuclear watchdog to give assurances it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

    In his speech to Malaysian business people on Thursday, the Iranian president said that rich countries were draining wealth from the developing world.
    "The main root cause is that they want to have control of all the resources in the world ... and they want access to cheap oil," he said. "This means there must be no other power allowed on the stage."

    Earlier on Thursday he was given a warm welcome before meetings with Malaysia's prime minister - the current head of the world's biggest grouping of Muslim nations,  the Organisation of the Islamic Conference - who he will brief on the nuclear programme.
    Malaysia is expected to try to encourage a negotiated solution to the stand-off.

    Peaceful purposes

    Syed Hamid Albar, Malaysia's foreign minister, said it was vital to avoid another military conflict like the US-led invasion of Iraq.
    "We still hold to the position that nuclear technology for nuclear energy to be used for peaceful purposes, should be allowed."
    "But in the case of Iran's situation, there is an impasse at present between the European Union and the Americans but we hope ultimately through dialogue and negotiation a solution would be found peacefully."

    Malaysia is also the current head of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a bloc of more than 100 mainly developing nations which supports the right to nuclear technology for its members.



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