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. Ahmadinejad vows to resist Western nuclear 'bullying'
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 23 (AFP) Sep 23, 2008
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday promised to pursue nuclear technology despite Western "bullying," as Russia apparently scuppered a push for new sanctions against Tehran.

Iran "will resist the bullying and has defended and will continue to defend its rights," Ahmadinejad said in a defiant speech to the UN General Assembly.

In a clear reference to the United States and its allies, he said: "They oppose other nations' progress and tend to monopolize technologies and to use those monopolies in order to impose their will on other nations."

He also lashed out at Israel, saying "the Zionist regime is on a definite slope to collapse and there is no way for it to get out of the cesspool created by itself and its supporters."

Despite three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, Iran continues to defy calls by the United States and its Western allies to halt uranium enrichment -- a process the West and Israel fear is being used to make an atomic bomb.

Iran says it aims only for peaceful civilian nuclear energy.

However, with the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- divided, Ahmadinejad was confident he was unlikely to face tougher action soon.

"We do not believe that the US policy perspective, looking at the rest of the world as a field of confrontation, will give good results," he told the Los Angeles Times daily.

In the latest evidence of splits among world powers, Russia's foreign ministry rejected a US-led call for a new meeting on Iran.

"We do not see any fire that requires us to toss everything aside and meet to discuss Iran's nuclear programme in the middle of a packed week at the United Nations General Assembly," the ministry said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had planned to meet on the sidelines of the UN assembly with colleagues from Britain, Russia, France, China and Germany -- the "P5+1" group.

The United States wants to impose new sanctions against Iran, but Russia and China are resisting the move.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the possible cancellation would make it "difficult" to bring pressure to bear on Iran.

Apparently referring to countries such as Russia, Syria and Venezuela, which frequently speak out strongly against the United States, Ahmadinejad said: "A universal resistance against the acquisitiveness, aggression and selfishness of the bullying powers is being formed."

The "American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road," he said.

Iranian-American opponents of Ahmadinejad gathered near UN headquarters in New York to protest what they described as the government's human rights abuses and suppression of democratic opposition.

A separate rally was due nearby by the organization StopWarOnIran.org, which accuses US President George W. Bush of pushing for a war on Iran.

In the interview with the LA Times, Ahmadinejad blamed Washington for world tensions and for economic instability triggered by the Wall Street banking crisis.

"Problems do not arise suddenly," he said.

"The US government has made a series of mistakes in the past few decades. First, the imposition on the US economy of heavy military engagement and involvement around the world... the war in Iraq, for example... these are heavy costs."

Ahmadinejad, who has previously called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," also proposed Israel be transformed into a single state including returned Palestinian refugees, who would vastly outnumber the now dominant Jewish population, the LA Times reported.

Israel's President Shimon Peres, also at the United Nations, shot back, saying: "I do not think (Ahmadinejad) has a future."

Peres accused the Iranian leader of wanting "the world to return to the darkness, hatred, threats, arrogance."

The UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, called on Iran Monday to clear up allegations it had been involved in studies to make a nuclear warhead.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei published a report last week in which he accused Iran of stalling a UN investigation into its disputed nuclear program, refusing access to documents, individuals and sites.

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