Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told world leaders his country will defy any further U.N. Security Council resolutions imposed by "arrogant powers" seeking to curb its nuclear program, accusing them of lying and imposing illegal sanctions against Tehran.
He said it is "high time for these powers to return from the path of arrogance and obedience to Satan to the path of faith in God."
Undeterred, France and Germany increased pressure on the Islamic republic at the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting on Tuesday, saying they would not accept a nuclear-armed Iran.
"Let's not fool ourselves. If Iran were to acquire the nuclear bomb, the consequences would be disastrous," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the session.
Ahmadinejad on Tuesday also indirectly accused the United States and Israel of violating human rights by setting up secret prisons, abducting people, holding trials and enacting secret punishments without any regard to due process, and tapping phone conversations.
"They use various pretexts to occupy sovereign states and cause insecurity and division and then use the prevailing situation as an excuse to continue their occupation. For more than 60 years, Palestine, as compensation for the loss they incurred during the war in Europe, has been under the occupation of the illegal Zionist regime," he said.
Referring to the U.S. government's policy on Iraq, he said: "They even oppose the constitution, National Assembly and the government established by the vote of the people, while they do not even have the courage to declare their defeat and exit Iraq."
Ahmadinejad told leaders that the world powers on the Security Council had politicized Tehran's nuclear program, making military threats and imposing sanctions against the country as they demanded it suspend uranium enrichment.
He announced to the assembly that the nuclear issue was now "closed" as a political issue and Iran would pursue the monitoring of its nuclear program "through its appropriate legal path," the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei and Iranian officials agreed in July that Tehran would answer questions from agency experts by December on more than two decades of nuclear activity
-- most of it secret until revealed more than four years ago. IAEA technical officials returned to Tehran this week to start probing outstanding questions, some with possible weapons applications.
The U.S. delegation walked out of the General Assembly chamber when Ahmadinejad went to the podium, leaving only a low-ranking note-taker to listen to his speech, which also indirectly accused the U.S. and Israel of human rights violations. Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman, said the U.S. wanted "to send him a powerful message."
Ahmadinejad remained in the General Assembly for Bush's speech, but a U.N. diplomat in the chamber said he pulled out his translation earpiece before Bush started to talk.
Iran insists that its nuclear program is purely peaceful and aimed solely at producing nuclear energy. But the United States and its European allies believe the program is a cover for Iran's real ambition
-- producing nuclear weapons.
Ahmadinejad has defied two Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend uranium enrichment and imposing sanctions against key figures and organizations involved in the nuclear program. He made clear in his speech
that Iran does not intend to comply with them now.
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Iran has decided "to pursue the issue through its appropriate legal path ... and to disregard unlawful and political impositions by the arrogant powers," he said.
"Some powers sacrifice all human values including honesty, purity and trust for the advancement of their goals," he said. "They lie openly, level baseless charges against others, act contrary to legal norms and damage the climate of trust and friendship."
At a news conference later, he said Iran's efforts still will be geared toward preventing sanctions, but he maintained that the Security Council sanctions against his country were "completely illegal."
While Iran is allowing the IAEA to inspect its known nuclear facilities, it no longer allows inspectors freedom to probe deeper and look for suspicious activities on short notice anywhere in the country as it once did.
The U.S. initially opposed the ElBaradei plan, fearing it could draw attention away from Iran's defiance of the Security Council. It later endorsed the plan while emphasizing that Iran must heed the council's demands.
A third Security Council resolution, with tougher sanctions, is being discussed, although there is no agreement on it. President Bush has refused to take military action off the table if Iran does not comply.
Before Ahmadinejad spoke, French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned the assembly that allowing Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons would be an "unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world."
"There will not be peace in the world if the international community falters in the face of the proliferation of nuclear arms," he said. The Iranian crisis "will only be resolved if firmness and dialogue go hand-in-hand."
Bush scarcely mentioned the Iranian nuclear standoff in his speech, instead harshly criticizing Myanmar's military dictatorship, which he accused of imposing "a 19-year reign of fear" that denies basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship in the country.
In an angry defense of Iran, Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega chastised the U.S. for seeking to restrict its right to enrich uranium, which is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Ortega said the United States, as "the only country in the world to have dropped nuclear bombs on innocent people," had no right to question the right of Iran and North Korea to pursue nuclear technology for "peaceful purposes."
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News that Ahmadinejad should not have been invited to address the General Assembly.
"Ahmadinejad is expanding a fanatic doctrine of genocide. He is developing nuclear weapons to achieve it," he said.
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