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. Ahmadinejad warns of severe response to any US strike
ABU DHABI, May 14 (AFP) May 14, 2007
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned on Monday that Iran would retaliate with severity to any possible attack by the United States over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme.

"They (the Americans) understand that if they should make this mistake, the retaliation of the Iranian people will be severe and they will repent," he told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

Ahmadinejad, who was speaking three days after US Vice President Dick Cheney warned that the United States would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, said the era when a state could come from "thousands of miles away" to strike another country had gone.

"They cannot strike Iran. The Iranian people are able to retaliate. They are able to protect and defend themselves well," he said.

Ahmadinejad reiterated Tehran's assertions that its nuclear programme, which the United States suspects is a cover for developing atomic weapons, was being pursued "within the context of the law" in keeping with its "right to acquire this energy."

He dismissed Cheney's warnings, made from the hangar deck of a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf on Friday.

"The message did not contain anything new," the Iranian leader said, speaking in Farsi through an interpreter.

Ahmadinejad arrived in the UAE on Sunday hot on on the heels of Cheney, who has been touring Arab allies to rally support as Washington grapples with mounting violence in Iraq while not ruling out the use of force against Iran over its nuclear activities.

Ahmadinejad said landmark talks on Iraq between US and Iranian delegates, announced by both sides on Sunday, would take place in Baghdad, but the date has not been decided.

The United States "requested to talk with Iran" in order to solve security issues in Iraq, he said. "In order to support the Iraqi people, we declared that we are ready."

US officials said the talks would take place in the next few weeks.

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