Ahmadinejad accused the US
of violating global nuclear treaties
Iran has clashed head-on with the West at the United Nations as a defiant
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated his country's determination to press
ahead with producing nuclear fuel.
In an assertive speech to the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Ahmadinejad
accused the United States of violating global nuclear treaties.
He called for the formation of a United Nations committee to investigate, among
other things, which powers had given Israel the technology to develop nuclear
weapons in a speech that threw down the gauntlet to the US and its chief EU
partners on the issue, Britain, France and Germany.
The president said his country had the inalienable right to produce nuclear
"We're not going to cave in to the excessive demands of certain powers," Ahmadinejad later on Saturday told a news conference
when asked if Iran would halt sensitive activities such as uranium ore conversion
- a precursor to making enriched fuel.
The president said Iran proposed to involve foreign firms in its uranium enrichment
programme as a confidence-building measure to end a standoff over its suspected
nuclear weapons programme.
In his much-anticipated address, Ahmadinejad said: "As a further confidence-building
measure and in order to provide the greatest degree of transparency, 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
programme in Iran."
He said Iran wanted South Africa to join negotiations to resolve the crisis
over Tehran's nuclear programme, noting Pretoria's active role in the International
Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors.
But Ahmadinejad also warned: "If some try to impose their will on the
Iranian people through resort to a language of force and threaten with Iran,
we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue."
He further proposed that the UN General Assembly create an ad hoc committee
to study and report on "possible practical measures and strategies for
Tough US stance
Ahmadinejad (L) suggested
South Africa join nuclear talks
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the United Nations to be tough
with Iran over its nuclear ambitions and said the Security Council must act
when diplomacy was exhausted.
Rice has been in New York for most of the week, holding meetings with key foreign
leaders on the sidelines of a UN summit to try and persuade them to act against
Rice on Saturday said there was time for diplomacy and that Tehran must resume
nuclear talks that broke down last month with the Europeans.
Tehran insists its atomic programme is for civilian energy purposes, but the
US and some other Western countries say it is intended to build nuclear weapons.
"It (the United Nations) must be able to deal with great challenges like
terrorism and nuclear proliferation, especially when countries like Iran threaten
the effectiveness of the global non-proliferation regime," said Rice in
her first speech to the UN General Assembly.
"When diplomacy has been exhausted, the Security Council must become involved,"
Leaders at the UN World Summit
endorsed moderate changes
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency is to consider on Monday
whether to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, a move
the US has been pushing for.
Rice's spokesman quoted her as saying it was up to the Iranians to take the initiative
and return to nuclear talks with Germany, France and Britain, which have taken
the lead on negotiations.
"Yes, there is still time for diplomacy, but it's up to the Iranians to
seize the opportunity," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
A prepared version of Rice's speech had included harsher language about Tehran,
describing it as a "leading state sponsor of terrorism" whose nuclear
ambitions threatened peace hopes in the Middle East.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan
opened the three-day summit
Rice used her speech to stress the need to reform the United Nations and equip
the world body to tackle problems such as terrorism, weapons proliferation,
pandemic disease and trafficking in human beings.
"For this institution to become an engine of change in the 21st century,
it must now change itself. The United Nations must launch a lasting revolution
of reform," said Rice.
World leaders on Friday endorsed moderate reforms of the world body at the end
of a 60th anniversary summit that made limited progress on fighting poverty and
terrorism, boosting security or protecting human rights.
The US has been among the most vocal critics of the UN, which many in Congress
see as bloated and inefficient, particularly after revelations of corruption
and mismanagement of the UN-run Iraq oil-for-food programme and a sex abuse
scandal involving peacekeepers.
Rice said that the US was open to expanding the UN Security Council and that
Washington had long supported a permanent seat for Japan, although it repeatedly
has sought delays in moves to enlarge the 15-nation council.