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THE WORLD

Iranian President Blasts U.S.

Speech: Khatami, in Malaysia, says America needs to tone down its hostile rhetoric.

July 24, 2002|From Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Iranian President Mohammad Khatami lashed out at the United States and Israel on Tuesday, accusing Washington of promoting war and the Israeli government of cruelty.

"We live in a frightening situation today," Khatami said at a news conference during an official visit to Malaysia. "In the course of the history of the world ... we have never witnessed war being promoted so much [as] in the United States."

Khatami, whose attempts at reform have met with resistance from hard-liners in his Islamic nation, said Iran would have "no problem" with the United States if it toned down its hostile rhetoric.

Khatami said Washington was using "the tongue of threats and insults" against Iran, and rejected President Bush's accusation that Iran was part of an "axis of evil" with North Korea and Iraq.

"The great nation of Iran has never trod on the path of evil," Khatami said. "Evil is when a country has power and defines everything according to its own interests."

Khatami has received a warm welcome in Malaysia. On Monday, he held talks with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The visit comes amid a wave of anti-U.S. sentiment in Iran triggered by remarks Bush made this month expressing support for the reform movement. His comments were seen as U.S. meddling in the power struggle between Iran's reformists and hard-liners. Hard-liners have accused the reformists of being pawns of the United States.

Khatami also criticized Washington for backing Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon's government. "The most suppressive and cruel government in the world is Israel," Khatami said Tuesday at a separate event. "It is being supported by the United States."

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