Iran's president urges more effort to tackle religious hatred

World leaders must do more to eradicate religious hatred, which is growing, Iran's president told a global church body.

``Today we speak of the global village,'' said Mohammad Khatami, in a Dec. 11 speech to the World Council of Churches. ``But in this global village it's clear that we are unable to understand one another.''

Khatami said geopolitics were partly to blame. He did not single out any countries, but since its 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran's leadership has criticized the United States and other western nations for their international policies and for spreading western culture.

``Religious dialogue should help remedy this situation of mutual incomprehension. But unfortunately the powerful of the world, instead of reducing and wiping out misunderstanding, are contributing to its increase,'' Khatami said. ``Considering yourself as the center of the world and the master of the world leads to terror.''

Foreign criticism of Iran, and particularly claims that the Mideast nation has been building nuclear weapons, were misplaced and unfair, Khatami said. Nuclear weapons are un-Islamic because they kill indiscriminately, he claimed. But Iran has a right to develop nuclear power plants to fuel its economy, he added.

The reform-minded Khatami, who was first elected in 1997, noted that he did not believe that there is a ``clash of civilizations'' between Muslim and Western countries. But unlike secular Western politicians, Khatami said he believed that ``politics without religion is dry.''

The Geneva-based council represents 341 Protestant and Orthodox churches in more than 100 countries.