DUBAI - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday he was not worried by Israel's test-firing a ballistic missile and that Israel would never dare attack Iran.
Israel "does not have the courage to attack Iran," Ahmadinejad told Al-Jazeera television during an interview in which he was asked about the long-range ballistic missile Israel said it successfully test-fired earlier Thursday.
"The Zionist entity knows that any aggression on Iran will be met by a violent response," Ahmadinejad said.
"The Iranian response will make them regret and they know that," he said.
The Israeli missile test comes days after Israel warned that "all options" were open to prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear programme.
"The Zionist entity will not secure legitimacy through threats," Ahmadinjad said. "They are terrorists, criminals."
Ahmadinejad insisted in the interview that Iran was engaged in a peaceful nuclear energy programme and dismissed warnings by Israel and the United States against Tehran as threats made "for internal consumption."
"We do not take (US, Israeli) threats seriously," he said when asked if he was concerned of a possible military strike against Iran.
Ahmadinejad also slammed US President George W. Bush's latest Middle East tour as a failure and said the US leader had sent a "message of confrontation" during the trip.
Speaking in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi on Sunday, Bush said Iran was "today the world's leading state sponsor of terror".
He also addressed the Iranian people saying they have "the right to live under a government that listens to your wishes, respects your talents and allows you to build better lives for your families."
In response, Ahmadinejad said "this message is a message of confrontation and a message to sow divisions but it does not affect the Iranian people."
UAE foreign minister hails Iran ties
The United Arab Emirates hailed on Thursday its ties with Iran.
Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nayhan "hailed the relations between the Emirates and Iran," the official WAM news agency reported.
Sheikh Abdullah, who was meeting Iranian Ambassador Reza Asefi, added that "we aspire to a consolidation of those relations at the next meeting of the (Emirati-Iranian) mixed commission."
On Wednesday, the same day Bush headed home, Kuwait's foreign minister called Iran a friend.
"I can only speak on my government's behalf. My country knows who is our friend and who is our enemy and Iran is our friend," Sheikh Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah said at a news conference in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki.
The UAE and Iran are major trading partners, and some 400,000 Iranians live in the seven-member federation.
According to the Iranian Business Council, Iranians have some 300 billion dollars (200 billion euros) invested in the emirates.
Iran still aiding Iraq insurgents: US general
Iran is still training and funding insurgents attacking coalition troops in Iraq, the second highest US general serving in the country said Thursday.
"We know that they continue to train Iraqi extremists in Iran, we know that they continue to pay some of these extremists," General Raymond Odierno told reporters here, referring to Iran.
"We are not sure if they are still sending weapons into Iraq but we are certainly uncovering a lot of Iranian weapons here," he said in a video conference from Baghdad.
The United States has consistently accused its long-time foe Iran of backing extremists in its majority-Shiite Muslim neighbor, where insurgents have carried out regular deadly attacks following the 2003 US-led invasion.
"What's happened in the past 100 days is we're beginning to really start to work with many Shiite groups and we're really starting to see some reconciliation," Odierno said.
"But we still have some who mostly are supported by Iran who still are trying to conduct attacks against coalition forces."
Bush backs 'full scope' of Iran findings
Bush endorses the "full scope" of last month's US intelligence findings on Iran, the White House said Thursday after Bush seemed to distance himself from the report.
"The president stands by the full scope of the findings in that they were put together by incredibly dedicated people that did their best work and put their best views out," spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters.
On Tuesday, the president had emphasized that the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was crafted by "independent" spy agencies that "come to conclusions separate from what I may or may not want."
And his chief spokeswoman, Dana Perino, refused to say that he endorsed the NIE's chief finding that Tehran shelved a nuclear weapons program in 2003, in what was seen as a blow to Washington's efforts to confront its archfoe.