Iranian President Mohammad Khatami accused the United States of steering the world along a "frightening" path towards war in its fight against terrorism.
Speaking at a news conference on the second day of a visit to Malaysia, Khatami also condemned plans for US military action against Iraq to oust President Saddam Hussein.
"We live in a very frightening situation today. In the course of world history, we have never witnessed war being promoted so much," he said.
"Even in the course of the two world wars and the very difficult era of the Cold War, never has such an environment of war been created in the world by the US and the US administration.
"We are concerned about such a situation. Our world today can by no means accept military challenges especially when such challenges are initiated by a superpower with great military power."
US President George W. Bush has named Iran as part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea but Khatami, without naming the United States, said it was evil for a superpower to "define everything according to its power and not in the interest of others."
"Evilness is terrorism, it is war, humiliation and insult. It is occupying other people's land and displacing them... evilness is to accept democracy in some parts of the world and deny it in others," he said.
"Iran has never trodden on the path of evil."
While terrorism was a "very horrendous and dangerous phenomenon", US behavior
in the aftermath of last September's terror attacks was misguided, the Iranian
"Terror is a global issue and the entire world should be mobilized against
it... but the war environment created today is very worrying.
"The behavior of the US today is neither in the interest of the US nor of the
world... today there are great threats against various nations and governments
initiated by the US administration and in the long term, this is a concern to
all of us."
Referring to the threat of a US attack on Iraq, Khatami urged Washington to accept that other nations have a right to choose their own paths.
"We had eight years of war in Iran and we had a lot of problems with Iraq. We still believe that Iraq should abide by UN Security Council resolutions and by the public opinion of the world," he said.
"But at the same time, we condemn any foreign interference in Iraq and we recognize
their sovereign integrity. No one has the right to decide for the people of Iraq,
they should decide for themselves."
Khatami urged the United Nations to lead the anti-terror war and remove the roots of terrorism, which he named as prejudice, discrimination, national humiliation and violation of human rights.
"I have proposed a coalition of peace based on justice against the US suggestion of a coalition of war... we should first have a good definition of terror and terrorism and then begin a basic campaign against it."
Khatami blamed foreign interference for disunity in the Muslim world and said the formation of an Islamic union, which he proposed during talks Monday with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, would turn the Islamic bloc into a "great power".
"If Islamic countries join hands, they can tread the path of development and
progress much faster and at a much lower cost," he said, adding that the Organization
of the Islamic Conference (OIC) could lay the groundwork for such an initiative.
Both Iran and Malaysia belong to the 57-member OIC and Kuala Lumpur is due to take over its chairmanship next year.
The Iranian leader, who is accompanied by his wife and a 91-member delegation,
leaves this Southeast Asian nation on Wednesday.
© 2002 AFP