Iran leader says U.S. abusing U.N. power

Associated Press Writer

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took aim at U.S. policies in Iraq and Lebanon on Tuesday, and accused Washington of abusing its power in the U.N. Security Council to punish others while protecting its own interests and allies.

He addressed the annual U.N. General Assembly hours after President Bush spoke to the same forum. But while Ahmadinejad harshly criticized the United States, Bush directed his remarks to the Iranian people in a clear insult to the hard-line government.

In his speech, Bush pointed to the Iranian government's rejection of a Security Council demand to stop enriching uranium by Aug. 31 or face sanctions.

"The greatest obstacle to this future 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," the U.S. leader said.

"Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions," he said. "Despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program."

He also said he hoped to see "the day when you can live in freedom, and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace."

Ahmadinejad insisted that his nation's nuclear activities are "transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eye" of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog. He also reiterated his nation's commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Earlier this month, Ahmadinejad proposed a debate with Bush at the General Assembly's ministerial meeting after the White House dismissed a previous TV debate proposal as a "diversion" from serious concerns over Iran's nuclear program.

But even though the two leaders were addressing the same forum, they skipped each other's speeches and managed to avoid direct contact during the ministerial meeting.

Ahmadinejad also accused the United States and Britain of using their veto power on the Security Council to further their own interests and he said it had become an "instrument of threat and coercion."

"If they have differences with a nation or state, they drag it to the Security Council," and assign themselves the roles of "prosecutor, judge and executioner," Ahmadinejad said. "Is this a just order?"

The U.S. and Britain played central roles in helping craft a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in July that gave Iran until Aug. 31 to suspend uranium enrichment and asked the IAEA to report on Tehran's compliance, dangling the threat of sanctions if Iran refused. Tehran made clear even before the deadline expired that it had no intention of suspending uranium enrichment.

The IAEA last week rejected a recent American report on Iran's nuclear capability, saying the Islamic republic has produced material only in small quantities that is far below the level that can be used in nuclear arms.

Ahmadinejad also criticized the Security Council for failing to call for an immediate cease-fire after war broke out between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. A truce was only reached on Aug. 14 to end the 34-day conflict.

"The Security Council sat idly by for so many days, witnessing the cruel scenes of atrocities against the Lebanese ... Why?" asked Ahmadinejad, whose government is one of Hezbollah's main backers.

He said the answer is self-evident: "When the power behind the hostilities is itself a permanent member of the Security Council, how then can this council fulfill its responsibilities."

The United States and Britain refused to call for a cease-fire during the monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah, declaring it part of war on terror. Only after Israel's failure to defeat Hezbollah and the deaths of nearly 1,000 Lebanese civilians did Washington and London agree to push for a truce by the U.N. Security Council.

The Iranian leader had harsh words about U.S. efforts in Iraq, saying "the occupiers are incapable of establishing security in Iraq" and every day hundreds of people get killed "in cold blood."

Ahmadinejad claimed that numerous terrorists apprehended by the Iraqi government were "let loose under various pretexts by the occupiers."

Domestically, Ahmadinejad, who doesn't enjoy widespread popularity among his people, has been able to use America's uncompromising stand against Iran's nuclear program to his own benefit. Many Iranians, including those who are against the president's domestic policies, support him in his showdown with the United States on the nuclear issue.

In an interview with "NBC Nightly News," Ahmadinejad was asked about Bush's appeal to the Iranian people.

"We have the same desire ... to be together for the cause of world peace," he said through a translator.

"We think that the American people are like our people. They're good people, they support peace, equality and brotherhood," he said.

He said his issue was with the U.S. administration.

"I explicitly say that I am against the policies chosen by the U.S. government to run the world because these policies are moving the world toward war," he said.

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