(New York Times) | February 19, 2010

BEIRUT, Lebanon —Speaking from the deck of a newly-unveiled naval destroyer, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, derided Western claims about his country’s nuclear program, saying Iran does not believe in nuclear weapons and is not seeking to develop them.

He spoke a day after the United Nations’ nuclear inspectors issued a strongly-worded report citing evidence of “past or current undisclosed activities” by Iran’s military to develop a nuclear warhead.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s comments seemed designed to send a dual message, repeating Iran’s denials about nuclear weapons even as he showcased the country’s conventional military might in the Persian Gulf and harshly criticized the American military presence in those waters. He suggested that the United States and Israel were trying to frighten Iran’s neighbors with a view to selling them weapons.

“Our neighbors know that these are false claims and that America and the Zionist regime are trying to create divisions and divert the attention of the Islamic world from their real enemies, which are the U.S. and Israel,” the ayatollah said, in remarks broadcast on state television.

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