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. Iran's Ahmadinejad defiant amid nuclear warnings
TEHRAN, Sept 16 (AFP) Sep 16, 2007
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday declared Iran had mastered nuclear technology and would never yield in the face of international pressure over its atomic drive.

Ahmadinejad's comments in an interview with Iranian television were broadcast hours after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned the world should brace for war over Iran, although he did not react to those remarks.

"Of course we will not step back," said Ahmadinejad in the interview with Iran's Farsi language international channel Jam-e Jam in response to a call-in question by a viewer.

"We have mastered the technology to enrich uranium and we have arrived at an industrial stage," he added.

"The West are talking about imposing sanctions on us. But they cannot do this," he added.

The Iranian leader repeated a demand for a public debate with US President George W. Bush to "discuss important global issues with the aim of resolving them."

"I had already suggested this the previous year. I am going to New York. Let us sit down together and hold discussions. But not behind closed doors. I have suggested that we discuss these global issues at the UN General Assembly to resolve them.

"Our aim should be to resolve these global issues. I want him to spell out his position and I will outline mine. There, the representatives of the 200 countries can evaluate them," he said.

Ahmadinejad said there could then be a "global referendum" on the positions outlined by the two sides.

He also rejected any direct negotiations between Tehran and Washington.

The UN Security Council has issued two sanctions resolutions against Tehran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons, and Western powers have warned of more action.

The United States has never ruled out using military strikes to punish Iran for its defiance and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday that "all options are on the table."

France's Kouchner said in a television interview also Sunday: "We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war."

Iran vehemently denies allegations it is seeking an atomic weapon, saying its nuclear drive is aimed at providing electricity for a growing population whose fossil fuels will one day run out.

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