AFP – December 24, 2008
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will deliver an alternative Christmas message on British television to rival Queen Elizabeth II's annual address, broadcaster Channel Four said Wednesday.
Ahmadinejad will give a brief speech which will go out on 1915 GMT on Christmas Day.
A Channel Four spokesman said the message is a spiritual one and includes Ahmadinejad's wishes for seasonal goodwill.
Channel Four has invited a figure in the news to deliver an alternative Christmas message to the queen's annual broadcast every year since 1993 but Ahmadinejad is the most high-profile guest yet.
The channel's head of news and current affairs Dorothy Byrne said: "As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential.
"As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."
Britain and Iran have rocky relations, particularly over Iran's disputed nuclear programme.
In October, Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned of a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran was allowed to press ahead unchecked with a uranium enrichment programme.
In response, Tehran accused Miliband of having "strong ties with Zionists"
Ties between the two countries were aggravated last year when Iran seized 15 British sailors and marines in disputed waters in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq.
The troops were released safely nearly two weeks later after a televised meeting with Ahmadinejad
Last updated 25/12/2008