Byline: Betsy Pisikand David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
NEW YORK - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday vehemently defended his country's right to develop nuclear power and enrich the spent fuel, and he expressed confidence that the U.N. atomic agency would not refer the matter to the Security Council tomorrow.
In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly's annual session and later remarks to reporters, Mr. Ahmadinejad repeatedly criticized the United States as an aggressor bent on a "nuclear apartheid" that emphasizes nonproliferation rather than disarmament.
He also repeatedly said that Tehran's nuclear aspirations were solely for the peaceful generation of power.
Western governments, he said, "have misrepresented Iran's healthy and fully safeguarded technological endeavors in the nuclear field as a pursuit of nuclear weapons," he said at an afternoon session of the assembly. "This is nothing but a propaganda ploy."
Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke only a few hours after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, standing on the same podium, demanded Tehran "abandon forever its plans for a nuclear-weapons capability." She called Iran "a leading state sponsor of terrorism, which threatens to destroy the fragile opportunity for peace that now exists in the Middle East."
After Mr. Ahmadinejad's speech, the European Union said yesterday that referring Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council was its sole option after Mr. Ahmadinejad affirmed Tehran's plans to press ahead with producing nuclear fuel.
"The EU's reaction to Mr. Ahmadinejad's speech is that the language he used leaves us no alternative but to pursue a U.N. referral," an EU spokeswoman told Reuters.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors is scheduled to meet in Vienna, Austria, tomorrow to discuss referring the matter to the U.N. Security Council.
Despite Washington's lobbying and the concerns of many governments, a majority of the 36-member board does not appear to favor referral. France, Britain and Germany, collectively the "EU-3," have been trying to negotiate a suspension of the fuel-enrichment in exchange for economic incentives, but those talks fell apart last month.
Mr. Ahmadinejad last night suggested several "confidence-building" measures to get beyond the impasse, but French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said he is unconvinced.