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. Iran's Ahmadinejad vows to defy UN nuclear demands
TEHRAN, April 28 (AFP) Apr 28, 2006
Hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired off a fresh barrage of warnings to the United Nations on Friday, saying Iran did "not give a damn" about demands to freeze sensitive nuclear work.

The firebrand president also told supporters the Islamic republic could soon become a "superpower", and issued a veiled threat to cut off ties with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

His comments coincided with an IAEA report saying Iran had failed to respect a Security Council deadline to freeze uranium enrichment -- which can make weapons material -- and that its hardline leadership had failed to cooperate with the agency.

"Iran does not give a damn about such resolutions," the firebrand president told a rally in the northern province of Zanjan.

"The bullies of the world should know that nuclear energy is a national demand, and thank God our nation is a nuclear nation today," the official news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

"The Islamic republic of Iran has the capacity to quickly become a world superpower," Ahmadinejad said. "If we believe in ourselves... no other power can be compared to us.

Iran argues that it only wants to make reactor fuel and not the core of a nuclear bomb, and accuses Western powers of seeking to deprive it of a "legitimate right" enshrined by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But the stinging IAEA report paves the way for possible sanctions, while the United States has also not ruled out taking military action.

"We still want to work within the framework of the agency and we are committed to its regulations," Ahmadinejad said.

"But if these regulations that guarantee our rights are used against us, we will totally change our way of dealing with the organisations," he added, repeating a threat to put an end to UN inspections.

According to the ISNA news agency, the president also promised that Iran would "soon have more good news" on its nuclear drive.

The last time Ahmadinejad promised "good news" was earlier this month, when he went on to announce that Iranian scientists and successfully enriched uranium to make reactor fuel and declared the Islamic republic had "joined the nuclear club".

At the regime's weekly Friday prayer sermon at Tehran University, influential former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani -- a rival of Ahmadinejad -- also warned Western powers but offered more conciliatory words.

"They should be cautious and careful and think about the consequences of this," Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative figure, said of the UN atomic watchdog.

"I want to tell them if they order to stop Iranian science, it will be a historic mistake. No one can stop a localised knowledge.

"So don't put yourself, us and the region in trouble," he said in comments directed at the UN and IAEA. "Sit and negotiate. Rest assured that Iranians want to build confidence. They want to honestly show their scientific work to the world in a clear atmosphere. They do not think about military action."

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