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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States on Tuesday of using the September 11, 2001 attacks as a "pretext" to launch invasions and cast doubt on the accepted version of the terror strikes.

"On the pretext of this incident a major military operation was launched and oppressed Afghanistan was attacked. Tens of thousands of people have been killed until now," he said in a speech broadcast on state television.

"Poor Iraq was attacked. According to official figures... one million people have been killed," he said in the speech marking Iran's day of nuclear technology.

He appeared to cast doubt on the official version of the attacks, saying the names of those killed had never been published and questioning how the planes had hit the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.

"An event was created in the name of the attack against the twin towers. We were all sad. It was said that 3,000 people were killed," Ahmadinejad said.

"But the names of the 3,000 people were never published and nobody was able to respond to the main question, which is how is it possible that with the best radar systems and intelligence networks the planes could crash undetected into the towers."

This is the first time that Ahmadinejad has spoken publicly about his interpretation of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The government of Iran's then reformist president Mohammad Khatami was quick to condemn the airborne attacks on New York and Washington carried out by Al-Qaeda militants which killed nearly 3,000 people.

However hardline newspapers have on occasion described the attacks as a conspiracy that was devised by the White House to justify its attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan.

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.

"Discrimination has been applied in the world and the lie has become the rule. Threat and pillage is something that has become acceptable," Ahmadinejad added.

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.

In his speech to Iranian dignitaries and some foreign diplomats, he also predicted the "demise" of the major powers which emerged victorious in World War II and have since dominated the international system.

He said Iran's nuclear achievements mark the "acceleration of the trend to the destruction of major powers and with God's help this will become reality. World powers are struggling to survive."

The UN Security Council, whose permanent veto-wielding members are the victorious Allied powers from World War II, has imposed three sets of sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend sensitive nuclear work.

Ahmadinejad described the Iranian nuclear programme as the "most important political event in the contemporary era."


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