President-elect Mahmood Ahmadinejad said today he wants to develop ties with all countries, especially in Europe, provided they respect Iran's "democratic choice." Iran's student-run news agency ISNA reported that Ahmadinejad said Iran wants "equitable and advancing relations with all countries in the world, particularly with the Europeans." But Ahmadinejad, who is to take up his duties in August, said Western countries should treat Iran "in a way that does not show prejudice." After Ahmadinejad's surprise election victory on June 24, former U.S. embassy hostages claimed he was one of the main actors in the Tehran ordeal that lasted 444 days between 1979 and 1981. However, Ahmadinejad's allies as well as several reformist leaders -- who participated in the hostage-taking and are politically opposed to the new president -- have denied he was involved.