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Iran is resolved to pursue nuclear program

Iranian president says nation has 'legal right' to nuclear energy

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Saturday.


International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Ali Khamenei
United Nations

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fiercely defended his country's nuclear program and excoriated the U.S. government -- as well as its supporters -- in a speech Saturday to the United Nations General Assembly.

The hard-line conservative told the world body his nation has every right to operate a nuclear program for peaceful purposes, and he accused the United States of violating international nuclear obligations.

Ahmadinejad lashed out against "nuclear apartheid," saying it is unfair that some nations are allowed to make nuclear fuel while others are condemned for it. (Watch Iran's president lash out over nuclear program)

He also offered to involve other nations and private firms in Iran's nuclear energy program in an effort to prove there is no covert effort to develop nuclear weapons.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to engage in serious partnership with private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of uranium enrichment program in Iran," he said.

Ahmadinejad also insisted his nation does not have and will not build nuclear weapons.

"In accordance with our religious principles, pursuit of nuclear weapons is prohibited," he said, rejecting U.S. assertions that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy program.

Ahmadinejad accused the United States of violating its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and accused Washington of hypocrisy.

"Today, the most serious challenges is that the culprits are assuming the role of prosecutor," he argued, accusing the United States of "bullying the others while through huge media resources portraying themselves as defenders of freedom."

The International Atomic Energy has looked into the country's nuclear program. IAEA leaders criticized Iran for failing to abide by some inspectors' demands. But the IAEA has found no evidence to support the charge that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a nuclear energy program.

Earlier, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Ahmadinejad said his country would pursue a nuclear energy program and would "use every resource" it has against efforts by the United States and European nations to prevent it. (Full story)

"We are determined. Certainly we are determined. Why should other people have it and sell it to us?" he said.

Asked about remarks by some Iranian officials that Iran may provoke a rise in oil prices, he responded, "I think any intelligent, healthy, smart human being should use every resource in order to maintain his or her freedom and independence."

Ahmadinejad added, "I doubt that the leaders of the United States and Europe are that far removed from reality." He said Iran has the "legal right" to pursue a nuclear energy program, and "I think they're smarter than denying us this legal right. It is natural, of course, they will use whatever they have in their hand, which is the U.N. Security Council, and our nation has the means to defend and obtain its own rights."

The United States has long argued that Iran is trying to build a covert nuclear weapons program -- a charge Iran, and Ahmadinejad specifically, denies. (Listen to CNN's exclusive interview with the new Iranian president)

The Bush administration has threatened to bring the dispute to the U.N. Security Council. Earlier this year Iran walked away from negotiations with the European Union 3 -- Britain, France, and Germany -- and restarted uranium reprocessing, ending a voluntary commitment to halt the procedure during negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the General Assembly that "when diplomacy has been exhausted, the Security Council must become involved."

"Questions about Iran's nuclear activities remain unanswered, despite repeated efforts by the IAEA," Rice told the General Assembly. "And after agreeing to negotiate with Europe, Iran has unilaterally walked away from the talks and restarted its nuclear programs. Iran should return to the negotiations with the EU-3 -- and abandon forever its plans for a nuclear weapons capability."

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said Ahmadinejad had made "an unhelpful speech" and "had offered nothing in this speech to suggest that he wants to abide by the agreement Iran has made."

Straw said the British government would consult with the IAEA.

"What I heard today told me that the option of referral of Iran to the Security Council remains on the agenda," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said. (Full story)

Iran walked away from the EU-3 talks earlier this year, saying the offers -- which included support for other types of energy programs -- were unacceptable.

Ahmadinejad does not have the final word in government matters in the Islamic theocratic state; supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has that power. But Ahmadinejad has taken a leading public role and represents Iran at the General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad has faced accusations from some former U.S. hostages that he was an interrogator during the hostage crisis in 1979. He has denied it, and U.S. government investigations have found no support for those assertions.

In the CNN interview, he again denied any involvement.

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