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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran President, Wants To Attend London Olympics

Ahmadinejad Olympics London

05/17/12 11:35 AM ET  AP

TEHRAN, Iran -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that he is eager to attend the Olympic Games in London to support Iranian athletes but that Britain doesn't want to host him.

Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying he would like to be "beside Iranian athletes" during the Games but the British are reluctant to have him.

"I would like to be next to our young athletes at the 2012 Olympics but the host has a problem with this," Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with Iranian athletes who have qualified for the Olympics.

So far some 50 Iranian athletes have qualified to participate in the Olympics in several sports, including weightlifting, wrestling, shooting, track and field, and table tennis.

Ahmadinejad did not specify whether he has officially requested to attend the Games or say if Britain has refused him entry.

Britain's Foreign Office declined to comment on Ahmadinejad's claim, saying its policy was not to discuss individual visa cases. However, British authorities have confirmed that anyone can be stopped from entering the country – including for the Summer Games – if it is decided that their presence would be "unconducive to the public good."

The International Olympic Committee had no immediate comment.

Britain has been in a standoff with Iran over the country's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at producing an atomic weapon. Iran denies the charge, insisting the program is for peaceful purposes only.

In 2011, Britain cut ties with Iran and closed its embassy in Tehran after militant Iranian students stormed the mission. The raid followed a move by Iranian lawmakers to decrease relations and allegation of hostile British policies toward Tehran.

Ahmadinejad's remark could also be interpreted as a snub to his conservative hard-line opponents in parliament who oppose restoring ties with Britain.

Last year Iran objected to the logo for the 2012 Olympics, contending it was racist because the symbol vaguely resembled the word "Zion," according to Iranian authorities. There was even a warning of a possible Iranian pullout of the Games but that threat was later dropped.

Earlier this year Iran stopped exporting oil to Britain as a pre-emptive measure over the EU decision to impose an oil embargo on Iran over its nuclear ambitions. The oil embargo goes into effect in July.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves prior to entering an airplane leaving Iran for Tajikistan at Tehran's Mehrabad airport on March 24, 2012. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) and his First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi (R) listen to their national anthem prior to leaving Iran for Tajikistan at Tehran's Mehrabad airport on March 24, 2012. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves at supporters outside a polling station in Tehran on March 2, 2012. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

    An Iranian soldier standing atop an anti-aircraft machine gun, salutes as he passes by a huge poster of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during the annual army day military parade in Tehran on April 17, 2008. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

    Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) gives a speech next to newly appointed judiciary chief Sadegh Ardeshir Larijani during a meeting in Tehran on August 15, 2009. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami

    Senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami delivers the weekly Friday prayer sermon at Tehran University on May 27, 2011. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranian clerics queue outside a polling station at Massoumeh shrine in the holy city of Qom, 130 kms south of Tehran, during parliamentary elections in the Islamic republic on March 2, 2012. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Iranian cleric holds a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during the funeral of an unknown soldier from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

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Filed by Eline Gordts  |