NEW YORK - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday called on NATO naval forces to withdraw from the Gulf, calling them a threat to security.
Ahmadinejad was asked about the potential for conflict in the Gulf at the final press conference of his trip to New York for the annual UN General Assembly.
"Any tool that can prevent clashes and potential conflict will be welcome. And I don't think there is any need for confrontation," he said.
"But I think the best long term solution to this problem is for the foreign forces to leave the Persian Gulf. There is no need in the Persian Gulf for the presence of the NATO forces," the Iranian leader told journalists.
Iran is in a mounting diplomatic conflict with western nations over its nuclear program. The west accuses Iran of seeking a nuclear bomb. Ahmadinejad denies his country is trying to build an atomic weapon.
The United States and European navies have stepped up their presence in the Gulf in recent years. The United States has a naval base in Bahrain and France opened a base in Abu Dhabi, within 250 kilometers (155 miles) of Iran's coastline, in 2009.
"The nations of the region are fully capable of establishing and providing their own security," said Ahmadinejad.
"Perhaps some will pretend that energy security is at risk. For decades the countries in the region have been able to shoulder their responsibility for that security.
"I tell you in no uncertain terms today that NATO -- the Great Britain and American forces -- if they leave the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, Iran will guarantee the route of energy trade in the region and the security in the region at large," the president added.