Iranian President Blames US for Market Collapse

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Iran's president blamed U.S. military interventions around the world in part for the collapse of global financial markets and said the campaign against his country's nuclear program was solely due to the Bush administration "and a couple of their European friends."

The interviews of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before his speech to the United Nations on Tuesday, came after the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned that he could not determine whether Iran is hiding some nuclear activities.

Last year, thousands rallied at the United Nations to protest Ahmadinejad's speech. When Ahmadinejad was ushered to the podium of the General Assembly to speak, the U.S. delegation walked out, leaving only a low-ranking note-taker to listen to his speech.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Ahmadinejad said the collapse of global financial markets was due in large part to U.S. military interventions abroad.

"Problems do not arise suddenly," he said. "The U.S. government has made a series of mistakes in the past few decades. The imposition on the U.S. economy of the years of heavy military engagement and involvement around the world . . . the war in Iraq, for example. These are heavy costs imposed on the U.S. economy.

"The world economy can no longer tolerate the budgetary deficit and the financial pressures occurring from markets here in the United States, and by the U.S. government," he added.

In a separate interview with National Public Radio, Ahmadinejad said he does not want confrontation with the United States. He said he wants diplomatic relations to develop between the two countries and was willing, for example, to cooperate on upholding security in Iraq.

"We do not have confrontations with anyone," he said. "The U.S. administration interferes, and we defend ourselves."

Despite U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad claimed vast international support for his position and said the campaign consisted "of only three or four countries, led by the United States and with a couple of their European friends."

Ahmadinejad claimed that the "people of the world - the majority actually - support our stand."

The Iranian leader warned over the weekend that the military would strike back against anyone targeting his country's nuclear facilities.

"If anyone allows himself to commit even a tiny offense against Iran's legitimate interests, borders and sacred land, our armed forces will break his hand before he pulls the trigger," Ahmadinejad said during a military parade Sunday.

Iran insists its nuclear activities are geared only toward generating power. But Israel says the Islamic Republic could have enough nuclear material to make its first bomb within a year. The U.S. estimates Tehran is at least two years away from that stage.

Ahmadinejad's speech will come just hours after President Bush makes his final address to the General Assembly. After seven years of criticizing the U.N. for its huge, costly bureaucracy and indecisiveness in the face of grave problems, Bush is expected to stress the need for multinational diplomacy in a 15-minute speech.

Bush also is to meet Tuesday with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Topping their talks will be the series of suspected U.S. missile attacks and an American-led cross-border ground assault in Pakistan's volatile northwest that have angered public opinion.

The vice president of Sudan and leaders from Georgia, Lebanon, Kenya, Somalia, France, Liberia and Argentina are also among those addressing the General Assembly on Tuesday.

On Monday, leaders gathered for a high-level meeting on Africa's development needs. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world's rich nations to spend $72 billion a year to help Africa achieve U.N. goals to fight poverty, improve health and ensure universal primary education.

A new report from the secretary-general said not a single African country is likely to achieve all the U.N. Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015.

Ban said last week he was deeply concerned that the current economic slowdown and turmoil on Wall Street could have a "very serious negative impact" on the ability of rich nations to help achieve the targets, first and foremost to cut extreme poverty by half.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who heads the African Union, added his concern, warning Monday that "if the crisis is to continue, it will certainly have serious, serious implications." But he was hopeful that the financial turmoil will be short-lived.

"There may not be easy answers, but I believe the U.S. will overcome, and the world will overcome this unfortunate situation," he said.

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Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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