Iranian leader: U.S. opposes Tehran's progress
Ahmadinejad repeats call for Israel's destruction
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran's president on Friday slammed the United States and other countries as "against the advancement of technology and science" in his country, defending the nuclear program that has caused a firestorm of international controversy.
Adding fuel to that fire, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated assertions that furthered concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, again calling for Israel's destruction.
Most of his remarks -- like those of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation's supreme leader, who spoke before him at a conference on Jerusalem and the Palestinians -- centered on excoriating Israel and the United States. (Full story)
U.S. state department spokesman Sean McCormack called the remarks "more reprehensible rhetoric."
"This is the kind of rhetoric, I think, that has only added to the fears and concerns of the international community as it relates to Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon," McCormack told reporters in Washington.
On Tuesday, Iran declared it had enriched uranium in concentrations capable of running a nuclear power plant, defying the U.N. Security Council's call to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said Thursday that Tehran had not agreed to international demands that it halt uranium enrichment, but he also said the issue was not "urgent."
The Security Council has given Iran until the end of April to suspend uranium enrichment and asked ElBaradei to report back on the issue then.
Tehran insists it is not trying to build nuclear weapons. But U.S. and European officials fear the nation is using its nuclear energy program as a guise for the development of weapons.
Ahmadinejad lambasted any nation -- including the United States -- that would prevent Iran from operating nuclear facilities.
"The governments who use force become obstacles to the progress of other countries. They do not allow the countries in the region to follow the path of progress and advancement," Ahmadinejad said.
"They are against the advancement of technology and science in the region. And they support the occupying Zionist regime. Look how they have treated us, our achievement in our nuclear program."
Many countries will need nuclear energy in the future, he said.
Iran has rejected compromise proposals, including one by Moscow to allow nuclear fuel built on Russian soil and shipped into Iran.
After meeting with two of Iran's top nuclear officials in Tehran, ElBaradei said Thursday there was plenty of time for negotiations.
"I don't think the issue of enrichment right now, emotional as it is, is urgent," ElBaradei said. "So we have ample time to negotiate a settlement by which, as I said, Iran's need for nuclear power is assured and the concern of the international community is also put to rest."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking Thursday at a joint news conference with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay in Washington, said Iran "continues to defy" international demands. (Watch Rice again caution Iranian leaders -- 0:59)
The United States remains committed to diplomacy, she said, but the Islamic republic must agree to stop uranium enrichment before the Security Council takes up the issue at the end of the month.
Rice added that Iran has done nothing to indicate it will do so, and unless Tehran adheres to the demands of the international community, "There will have to be some consequences for that action and that defiance."
Ahmadinejad wrote off such remarks from Rice.
"She is free to talk this way as much as she wishes," the president said Friday via the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. "We do not attach any importance to this kind of words."
McCormack said ElBaradei spoke briefly with Rice on Friday and told her he had sent a strong message to Iran to comply.
Discussing possible actions against Iran, McCormack said there are "a number of different levers at the disposal of the international community."
These would include asset freezes, resolutions, "Chapter 7 resolutions issued by the Security Council, he said. Such resolutions could include sanctions and "restrictions on the ability of some members of that regime to travel."
The White House warned this week that Iran was moving in the "wrong direction" after its announcement on enriching uranium. (Watch as the issue sparks diplomatic talks and chants in the streets -- 2:07)
Iran agreed to work with IAEA inspectors to clear up "gaps" in the history of its nuclear program, agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said Thursday. However, no breakthrough was reached over the uranium enrichment issue, she said.
According to the state-run news agency, ElBaradei told Iranian officials "that Iran should not deal with the matter emotionally. The request is that Iran suspend uranium enrichment for a specific period for confidence-building with the international community."
Fleming said, "This is an issue that they listened to. They did not, however, make any commitments."
CNN's David Ensor and Stan Grant contributed to this report.
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