Iranian leader cancels Turkey trip amid row

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad canceled a scheduled trip to Turkey yesterday, a day after a top Iranian commander warned Turkey that the deployment of U.S.-made Patriot missiles was part of the West’s plot to “create a world war.”

Ahmadinejad’s decision to cancel the trip to Konya, where he was supposed to have talks with Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, raised a number of questions as neither the Turkish nor the Iranian side made a statement on the reasons for the cancellation, suggesting the rift between the two is growing wider. “His cancellation is because an unexpected event appeared in his program, we have been told by Iranians,” a Turkish diplomatic source said yesterday. The cancellation was confirmed by Iranian diplomats on the grounds that Ahmadinejad had other items on his agenda today.

Anatolia said the cancellation was also confirmed by Iranian diplomats on the grounds that Ahmadinejad had other items on his agenda today.

Erdoğan and Ahmadinejad were set to discuss a number of issues, with their disagreement on Turkey’s decision to deploy NATO Patriot systems on its soil expected to top the agenda.

On Dec. 15, Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, Iran’s armed forces chief said: “The Patriot [missiles] are threatening. Each one of them is a black dot on the map, [setting the stage] to create a world war,” ISNA news agency reported him as saying.

‘Patriots to create a world war’

“The Western countries seeking to deploy the missile batteries on the Turkey-Syria border are devising plans for a world war. This is very dangerous for everyone, and even for the future of Europe. A veteran military man and analyst can easily see this and predict the future.”

Earlier, Tehran had openly criticized Turkey’s decision to station NATO’s early warning radar systems in the eastern province of Malatya, underlining that it regarded the decision as a threat to Iran’s security. A senior Iranian official threatened to hit the station in the event of a Western coalition attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

NATO has approved Turkey’s request for Patriot missiles to bolster its border defenses amid tensions with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S. have agreed to provide the missile batteries. But both Russia and Iran, the allies of the al-Assad regime, are opposed to the move. In August, Firouzabadi drew the ire of Ankara after he predicted the turmoil in Syria would spill into Turkey, whose government he accused of aiding the U.S. in achieving “belligerent objectives.”

And last November, another top Iranian commander said Tehran would target NATO’s missile shield in Turkey if it came under military attack. Iran’s Foreign Ministry later moved to dismiss the remarks, saying they were the “personal views” of military commanders.

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