Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Iran president urges West to follow God's path

Parisa Hafezi, Reuters:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged the West to turn to God's path and said on Wednesday that failure to do so would tempt fate.

Iran is embroiled in a nuclear stand-off with the West, which accuses Tehran of seeking to build atomic bombs, a charge Tehran dismisses. Ahmadinejad says Western powers use such accusations as a ploy to hold back Iran's development.

"Those who do not respond to the invitation (to follow God's will), as we said, will have no good fate," said Ahmadinejad, who is a devout Shi'ite Muslim and only the second non-cleric to be president of the Islamic Republic. READ MORE

Ahmadinejad -- whose speeches are often peppered with religious and anti-Western remarks -- rebuffed accusations that Iranian policy constitutes a threat to the United States and again challenged President Bush to a live television debate.

"We requested a face-to-face debate (with Bush) to assess the problems of the world ... We will let humanity choose between us," Ahmadinejad told a meeting on the 12th Muslim Shi'ite imam, who disappeared in the 10th century AD but who Shi'ites believe will return to implement Islamic justice.

Washington has said the call for a debate is a diversion.

But Ahmadinejad's office said in a statement that he told his cabinet he was ready to debate in the U.N. General Assembly and that Bush could bring his advisers if he wished.

A presidential official told Reuters that Ahmadinejad's remarks were partly a rebuttle to a Bush speech on Tuesday in which the U.S. president said Shi'ite "extremists" were subjecting Iran to "a regime of tyranny", backed terrorists, sought atomic bombs and threatened the United States.

"I do not threaten anybody, but the whole universe threatens you. The current of life in the universe opposes you, as it opposes tyranny," Ahmadinejad said.

"We oppose the fact that America and Britain intend to impose themselves on every other nation."

In letters Ahmadinejad wrote this year to Bush and to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he blamed many of the world's problems on leaders who failed to follow divine teachings.

"The time has passed for the use of force ... All of the discrimination, wars and problems have a root in such an arrogant spirit, the idea of 'Mahdaviat' opposes that school of thought," Ahmadinejad said.

Mahdaviat refers to the concept of belief in 12th Imam, also known as the Mahdi. Ahmadinejad has often referred to the Mahdi in his speeches since he took office last year.

His belief in the Mahdi has unnerved some observers, because one school of thought, based around a secret society, believes the 12th Imam's return will be hastened by chaos on earth.