Harare: Iranian war games being staged at a time of heightened tension with the US are routine, the Iranian President told reporters during a state visit to Zimbabwe.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking at a news conference late Thursday, hours after his elite Revolutionary Guard began manoeuvres in the strategic Persian Gulf oil route, the Hormuz Strait.
In the past four years, the manoeuvres have always been held in summer. There was no official explanation of why they were brought forward this year, but they came as Iranian leaders were depicting US President Barack Obama's new nuclear policy as a threat.
Iran has been under harsh criticism from Western nations for pressing ahead with uranium enrichment programs it says are to produce nuclear energy. The West fears the militant Islamic state could develop nuclear weapons.
"We are having programs in our home country and the West are not comfortable with that," Ahmadinejad said in Harare. "They don't understand why we are doing so. But it is just an ordinary military exercise that we are currently undertaking."
Ahmadinejad, who opens a trade fair in southern Zimbabwe on Friday before heading to Uganda to complete his African trip, said Iran was interested in Africa's markets. He added Iran could also find like-minded leaders in Africa who faced similar problems with the West.
At a state dinner on Thursday, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe urged Ahmadinejad to remain resolute in defiance of the West over the nuclear program. Mugabe said both Zimbabwe and Iran were being targeted by the West because of how they wanted to manage their own natural resources.
First Published: Friday, April 23, 2010, 15:38