Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Photo: Reuters)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday defended his country's controversial nuclear programme while on a tour of west Africa, calling it peaceful and arguing that Tehran has no use for an atomic bomb.
Speaking during a visit to Benin, the first stop on a three-nation tour, Ahmadinejad called nuclear energy a "divine gift" providing affordable electricity.
"They accuse Iran, like all nations that seek to rapidly find their way out of the current domination," the Iranian leader said through an interpreter in a speech at a Benin university.
"We don't need an atomic bomb. ... And besides, it is not atomic bombs that threaten the world, but Western morals and culture declining in values."
Western powers suspect Tehran of covertly developing the capacity to produce a nuclear bomb.
Iran denies this and says its programme is for energy and medical purposes.
Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Benin on Sunday night, was due later Monday to travel to neighbouring Niger, one of the world's top producers of uranium.
Iran needs uranium for its nuclear programme, and Niger has recently criticised a longstanding agreement with France -- which gets most of its uranium from the former colony -- demanding a bigger share of the profits from uranium ore mining.
Uranium from landlocked Niger is trucked to Benin ports for export, but Benin's foreign minister has insisted that uranium was not on the agenda for his Benin visit.
Talks in Benin were to focus particularly on energy, agriculture and education, Benin officials have said.
Ahmadinejad will travel to Ghana on Tuesday following his visit to Niger for the final leg of the tour.