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Ahmadinejad: Iran can help secure Iraq, Israel is 'cruel'

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  • Iranian president urges U.S. and Britain to reconsider the invasion of Iraq
  • Ahmadinejad on Iran's nuclear ambitions: We do not need a bomb
  • Iranian president says Israel "cannot continue its life"
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(CNN) -- Iran wants "peace and friendship for all," the country's president said Wednesday while again denying Western assertions his nation is pursuing nuclear weapons and trying to destabilize Iraq.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the Natanz nuclear facility in April.

But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a hard line against Israel, calling it "an invader" and saying it "cannot continue its life."

Asked if Iran had launched a proxy war in Iraq -- something the U.S. ambassador and top military commander there both asserted this week -- Ahmadinejad said the United States is merely seeking a scapegoat for its failing campaign in Iraq.

"Forces have come into Iraq and destroyed the security, and many people are killed," the Iranian president told Britain's ITN during an interview in the garden of the Iranian presidential palace in Tehran.

"And there are some claims that may seem very funny and ridiculous. Those who have lots of weaponry and warfare and thousands of soldiers -- if they are defeated, they blame others. There is no way to escape for peace."

Iranians do not believe in war and consider it a "last resort," he said.

He further claimed that Tehran is a friend of Iraq -- maintaining "good relationships" with the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions -- and "if Iraq is not secure, we are the first country that would be damaged."

He added, "Responsible people should understand this: that Iran is against any sort of insecurity and attacks, and Iraq is able to defend themselves." Video Watch Ahmadinejad discuss issues affecting his country »

During the interview, Ahmadinejad struck a friendly tone toward Britain, saying he regretted that British soldiers have died in Iraq.

"We are sorry for your soldiers to be killed. We think peace should exist. Why should there be an invasion so that people will be killed?" he asked.

"We want friendship -- friendship to all. We love all nations and all human beings. Anyone who is killed, we are against it."

Ahmadinejad urged the United States and Britain to reconsider the invasion of Iraq. The two countries should "correct themselves," he said. If they don't, "the defeat would repeat."

The Islamic republic could help improve conditions in Iraq, but first coalition forces must leave, he said.

"We can help solve many problems in Iraq. We can help secure Iraq. We can help the attackers leave Iraq if the American government and British government correct themselves." he said.

Ahmadinejad has said in the past that Tehran would fill any power vacuum left by a withdrawal of coalition forces in Iraq.

The United States has cited the Iranian president's remarks as a reason to continue its efforts in Iraq.

As for allegations that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, Ahmadinejad said he resents the notion that Iran "has to obey whatever was put to us" and asked why there is no similar furor over American and British nuclear programs.

"Our bombs are dangerous, but American bombs are not dangerous?" he asked.

When the ITN interviewer asked if he could tour the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran, Ahmadinejad chuckled and asked him if he thought the United States or Britain would allow Iran to inspect their nuclear facilities.

"We do not need a bomb. We are against bombs, actually. There are many reasons we are against it," he said. "From a political point of view, it's not useful, we think."

The United Nations Security Council has so far imposed two rounds of limited sanctions against Iran for the country's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

Tehran has insisted the program is meant for peaceful energy production.

In regard to Israel, which Ahmadinejad has said should be politically "wiped off the map," the Iranian president said there is a way to deal with the Jewish state without violence.

Giving as an example the dissolution of the Soviet Union -- which he said came about "without war" -- Ahmadinejad suggested that "everything would be solved" if the Palestinian people were allowed to vote on their fate.

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However, his hard-line rhetoric resurfaced when Ahmadinejad said Israel "cannot continue its life."

"Israel is an invader and is cruel, and it hasn't got a united public. All other nations are against it," he said. "We do not recognize them. They are attackers and illegal." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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