UPDATE 1-Ahmadinejad labels Iran sanctions "worthless paper"

(Repeats with links)

SHANGHAI, June 11 (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slammed the latest U.N. sanctions against it on Friday as lacking legal value, but said he did not expect China’s support for the resolution to harm ties.

Ahmadinejad, speaking during a visit to China’s commercial capital of Shanghai, called the U.N. Security Council a tool of the United States and branded Wednesday’s resolution, triggered by a nuclear programme the West believes is aimed at developing atomic weapons, “a piece of worthless paper”.

The five veto-holding members of the Security Council wanted to monopolise nuclear energy for themselves, and the new sanctions would serve only to speed up Iran’s development, he said.

“In our view, the resolution lacks legal value. It indicates the weakness of the countries who initiated the resolution,” the president said, speaking through a translator. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ For full coverage, click on [ID:nLDE5BD2ES] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ “The nuclear issue is just an excuse or pretext. The government of the United States is going to swallow the whole Middle East region,” he added. “The Security Council is too in the hands of the United States. It does not belong to nations, its structure is not democratic.”

Iran was hit with a new round of U.N. sanctions on Wednesday over its nuclear activities. China watered down the package agreed by the United Nations, but still voted for it.

Asked about China’s support, Ahmadinejad said Iran’s main problem was with the United States, and that ties with China would not be affected.

“There is no reason to control or weaken the relationship. The main problem is with the United States. That must be resolved.”

China, which buys millions of barrels of oil from Iran every year, had opposed new restrictions on Tehran for months. The impact of the sanctions was also lessened by Turkish and Brazilian votes against it.

The resolution extended punitive measures against Iran over its protracted refusal to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment activity and open up to U.N. nuclear inspectors.

Ahmadinejad is in Shanghai to attend the Iran day at the ongoing World Expo. China’s Foreign Ministry says the visit is purely related to that event and that he is not scheduled to meet any Chinese leaders to discuss the nuclear issue.

At an earlier ceremony, Ahmadinejad spoke of his hopes of building a “better world” and praised Iran-China relations.

“The two great nations of Iran and China, who are the owners of the most ancient civilisations of human beings, can stay together to make this dream come true,” he told a mostly Chinese and Iranian audience.

European leaders are expected to agree next week on the need for further sanctions on Iran beyond those imposed by the United Nations on Wednesday, and the U.S. Congress is also expected to pass additional restrictions, possibly this month. (Additional reporting by Rujun Shen; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)