President hits back at 'worthless' sanctions

Barack Obama made a "big mistake" in seeking to punish Iran over its nuclear program, the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said yesterday, criticising Washington but glossing over China's decision to back UN Security Council sanctions.

President Ahmadinejad, visiting China's financial hub to tour the Shanghai World Expo, said the latest United Nations resolution, approved on Wednesday, was "a worthless piece of paper" and would have little impact.

"The US President thinks he can undermine the role of our country in the world. I think President Obama has made a big mistake," Mr Ahmadinejad said, accusing the US of hypocrisy.

Mr Ahmadinejad's visit comes two days after China yielded to international pressure to back a fourth round of nuclear sanctions targeting Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, ballistic missiles and nuclear-related investments, in a bid to compel Tehran to co-operate with international inspectors.

As an ally of Iran and a permanent member of the Security Council, China could have blocked the sanctions. China's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that its support should not block efforts to coax Iran back into negotiations. But Mr Ahmadinejad said such talks could happen only in a "friendly atmosphere."

The Iranian leader deflected suggestions that China's about-face on sanctions might drive a rift between the two countries. "We are confronting the US. The main problem is the US administration. We have no problem with others."