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Iran's President Blames West For 'All' Region's Problems

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (center) shakes hands with his Afghan and Iranian counterparts, Hamid Karzai (left) and Mahmud Ahmadinejad, after a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Islamabad on February 17.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has lashed out against foreign interference in the region, saying outsiders are responsible for "all the problems" there.

He was speaking at a joint press conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, following summit talks on February 17 with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts, Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai.

"There is no fundamental problem among countries of the region. All problems are coming from the outside," Ahmadinejad said.

"In order to promote their goals and ambitions, [the West] always seeks to promote division among all countries of the region."

Ahmadinejad said foreign powers "don't want to allow our nations to develop."

He didn't identify which outside powers he was referring to.

Ahmadinejad called for countries in the region to "stick together in order to advance and achieve our goals."

Karzai Calls For Action

Ahmadinejad's comments come with Afghan and Pakistani officials publicly calling for cooperation to help achieve a settlement with the Afghan Taliban and end the war in Afghanistan between Afghan and NATO-backed forces and the Islamic militia.

Karzai said that what he called "impediments" in relations between Kabul and Islamabad must sooner, rather than later, be removed so that progress can be made in peace talks to end the war, now in its 11th year.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who has publicly backed making progress in Afghanistan peace efforts, on February 17 denied allegations that Pakistani armed forces were "directly or indirectly involved" in the conflict on the side of the Taliban.

The Afghan Taliban has rejected recent claims by Karzai that the U.S. and Afghan governments have begun talks with the militants about a settlement.

The Iranian president's remarks also come as Iran has been dealing with tightened international sanctions, including an oil embargo by the European Union that Western states and the United Nations Security Council have imposed over the Iranian nuclear program.

Despite such sanctions, Iran announced a series of advancements in its nuclear program on February 15.

Iran said it had used domestically made nuclear fuel in a research reactor in Tehran for the first time and also unveiled a "new generation" of faster, more efficient uranium-enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz facility in central Iran.

Meanwhile, in a letter dated February 14, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Said Jalili, told world powers that Tehran was ready to resume stalled nuclear talks at the "earliest" opportunity.

But the letter sent to European Union chief diplomat Catherine Ashton, who represents the United States, France, Britain, Germany, China, and Russia in the talks, was vague on whether Tehran was ready to address international concerns over its nuclear program.

Ashton in October said in a letter that the powers could meet with Iran if it was ready to tackle those concerns.

Western powers suspect that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Iran denies.

Compiled from agency reports