TEHRAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused some major powers on Wednesday of waging psychological war on Iran, saying they had made a film designed to portray Iranians as savage.
Ahmadinejad did not name the film but his comments appeared to be directed at the Hollywood blockbuster "300" that depicts a 480 B.C. battle between Greeks and Persians. The film has topped box office charts in the United States and Asia.
Many Iranians see "300" as part of a broader campaign to vilify the Islamic Republic, which is locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear programme. The West accuses Iran of trying to make nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge.
"Today they are trying to tamper with history by making a film and by making Iran's image look savage," Ahmadinejad said in a televised address to mark the start of the Iranian New Year. He said the campaign against Iran would not succeed.
Iranian officials, media and bloggers have criticised the way their ancestors were portrayed in the film, inspired by the tale of 300 Spartans under King Leonidas who held out at Thermopylae against a Persian invasion led by Xerxes.
"By psychological war, propaganda and misuse of the organisations they have themselves created, and for which they have written the rules, and over which they have a monopoly, they are trying to prevent our nation's development," he said.
Ahmadinejad has previously said the U.N. Security Council, now considering expanding sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, was being used by the United States and Britain as a tool against the Islamic Republic.
Iran has refused to back down over its plans to enrich uranium, a process that can make fuel for power plants or bomb material if highly enriched, despite U.N. demands for a halt.
The U.N. Security Council is considering an embargo on Iranian arms exports and freezing financial assets abroad of 28 individuals, groups and companies, adding to limited sanctions on the country's nuclear programme imposed in December.
Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged the country in a televised address to stay united despite efforts by its "enemies" to cause economic problems and create divisions between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki singled out Britain for criticism, after Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told parliament on Tuesday the government would "search for opportunities" to keep up the pressure on Iran.
"Iran is unhappy because of the British government's impudence," Mottaki said before leaving South Africa late on Tuesday, the IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday.
"Unfortunately the countries of 5+1, headed by Britain, are trying to destroy the peaceful efforts of some non-permanent members of the Security Council," he said referring to the five permanent council powers with veto power and Germany.
On Monday, South Africa, a council member, circulated amendments to the proposed draft resolution that delete nearly all the main points negotiated by the six major powers.
(Additional reporting by Sophie Walker in London)