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Iran’s leader defends nuclear program

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    Posted: 19 September 2006 at 8:51pm

Iran's leader defends nuclear program at U.N
 Enlarge By Stan Honda, AFP/Getty 


By David Jackson and Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY

UNITED NATIONS Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a defiant speech Monday night before the United Nations, saying his country's nuclear program is "transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eye" of international inspectors.
His speech came hours after President Bush addressed the General Assembly, saying Iran's government has denied its people freedom.

Bush urged people across the Middle East to ignore "extremists in your midst" as he assured them the United States is not at war with Islam. "This propaganda is false and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror," Bush said.

The United States and Iran are locked in a diplomatic battle over Tehran's nuclear program. Iran says the program is peaceful. The United States says Tehran is pursuing a bomb.

The United States is pushing the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran after Tehran refused to suspend its nuclear enrichment program.

The two leaders avoided running into each other during U.N. meetings Tuesday and offered no conciliatory gestures in their speeches, sticking closely to their public positions.

Ahmadinejad lashed out at the United States and Israel, accusing the Bush administration of trying to dominate the world and calling the creation of Israel "a great tragedy with hardly a precedent in history."

Ahmadinejad accused Britain and the United States of distorting the international system through their power to veto resolutions in the U.N. Security Council. He also accused the United States and Britain of acting as "prosecutor, judge and executioner" of nations with which they have differences and said the U.N. system should be changed to give greater influence to the developing world.

The General Assembly, packed for President Bush's speech earlier in the day, was half empty when the Iranian addressed the chamber shortly after 7:30 p.m.

In his speech, the U.S. president told Iranians they deserved better than the theocratic government that has ruled them since a 1979 revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed shah.

"The greatest obstacle ... is that your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons," he said.

Bush spoke broadly of efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East. Speaking directly to citizens of individual countries, Bush outlined his hopes for peace and praised democratic efforts in places such as Iraq.

He criticized Syria as becoming "a crossroad for terrorism," noting the country's alliances with Hamas and Hezbollah militants. The president warned the people of Syria that "your government is turning your country into a tool of Iran."

Bush applauded new democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also cited elections held or planned in Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt.

Bush also told the assembly that he is sending Andrew Natsios, a former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as his envoy to the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.

Outside the United Nations, several hundred people demonstrated hours before Ahmadinejad spoke. Some held placards saying, "No to terrorist Ahmadinejad."

Earlier Tuesday, thousands of Iraq war protesters marched to the United Nations, chanting and waving anti-Bush signs.


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