/ 16 April 2008

Iran president casts doubt on ‘suspect’ 9/11

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday reaffirmed his doubts about the accepted version of the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States, describing the strikes as a ”suspect event”.

”Four or five years ago a suspect event took place in New York,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech to a public rally in the holy city of Qom, broadcast live on state television.

”A building collapsed and they said that 3 000 people had been killed, whose names were never published.”

”Under this pretext they [the United States] attacked Afghanistan and Iraq and since then a million people have been killed,” he said.

This was the third time in just over a week that Ahmadinejad has publicly raised doubts about the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, carried out by al-Qaeda militants, which killed nearly 3 000 people.

He first raised the theme at a ceremony on April 8, Iran’s national day marking its controversial nuclear programme, which the West fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.

A day later, he cast his doubts at an address at the shrine of the eighth imam of Shi’ite Islam, Reza, in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, one of Iran’s most sacred sites.

The speech in Qom, which was the first time he had described the September 11 attacks as ”suspect”, took place at the shrine of Massoumeh, the sister of Imam Reza.

Ahmadinejad did not say who he believed was behind the September 11 attacks. On April 8, he questioned how the two planes piloted by al-Qaeda militants could have evaded surveillance to crash into the World Trade Centre.

At the time, the government of Iran’s then-reformist president Mohammad Khatami condemned the attacks.

However, hard-line newspapers have occasionally described the attacks as a conspiracy that was devised by the White House to justify its eventual attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ahmadinejad also reaffirmed on Wednesday his determination to change the international order.

”We have two missions,” Ahmadinejad proclaimed. ”To construct Iran and change the global situation. It is impossible to reach the summits of progress without changing the corrupt and unjust order of the world.”

The controversial president has previously provoked outrage by describing the Holocaust as a myth and raising doubts over the scale of the mass slaughter of Jews in World War II.

He has also unleashed international outrage by calling for Israel to be ”wiped off the map” and then repeatedly predicting that the Jewish state is doomed to destruction.

In an echo of Ahmadinejad’s comments, a top Iranian army commander warned on Tuesday that Iran would ”eliminate Israel from the global arena” if it were attacked by the Jewish state.

Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations since the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution and remain at loggerheads over the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.

Tehran insists that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and aimed solely at generating energy for a growing population whose supply of fossil fuels will eventually run out. — AFP