UN: Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejects nuclear 'threat'

President Ahmadinejad criticised what he called a "new language of threat"

Iran's president has accused the West of nuclear "intimidation" in a UN General Assembly address boycotted by the United States and Israel.

It was using a nuclear arms race to threaten other nations to accept the status quo, said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He told reporters later that Iran was ready for talks with the US.

The West suspects Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

'Soulful breeze'

It was Mr Ahmadinejad's eighth and final speech at a debate of the UN General Assembly before he steps down.

"[The] arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction by the hegemonic powers have become prevalent," he told the 193-nation annual gathering.

UN debate highlights - Wednesday

  • Egypt's President Mohammed Mursi referred to the anti-Islam video that has sparked riots, saying: "Egypt respects freedom of expression, one that is not used to incite hatred against anyone"
  • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said conflicts must be resolved peacefully. Japan and China have been involved in a standoff over disputed islands
  • Mexico's President Felipe Calderon urged "a profound international debate" on curtailing drug trafficking
  • Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti said he was optimistic Europe would overcome its debt crisis
  • Yemen's President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi made a plea for help for his country's fight against al-Qaeda
  • Kenyan President Mwai Kibabi praised the African Union's peace efforts in Somalia

"Continued threat by the uncivilised Zionists [Israel] to resort to military action is a clear example of this bitter reality," Mr Ahmadinejad said.

He said the world was in need of a new order and a fresh way of thinking, as "the existence of discrimination and monopoly in the UN is in no way acceptable".

He closed with a poetic exhortation to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

He said this event would complete "the soulful breeze of the spring" - an apparent reference to the Arab Spring - as Christ would be accompanied by "a perfect human being... named Imam al-Mahdi... he will lead humanity into achieving its glorious and eternal ideals".

At a news conference later, the Iranian leader said Tehran was ready for dialogue with the US, despite Washington's use of sanctions "as revenge on the people".

And he said his country was not afraid of nuclear attacks against nuclear facilities - "Iran can neutralise" such attacks, he said.

On the eve of the General Assembly debate, Mr Ahmadinejad had told a UN meeting that Israel was a "fake regime", prompting Israel's UN Ambassador, Ron Prosor, to walk out.

Start Quote

Iran will continue to face the full force of sanctions... until it gives up its ambitions to spread a nuclear shadow across the world”

End Quote David Cameron UK Prime Minister

The Iranian leader refrained from such inflammatory remarks during Wednesday's half-hour speech, which the US delegation had boycotted due to his recent attacks on Israel. Israel's ambassador was not present, because it was Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

"Over the past couple of days, we've seen Mr Ahmadinejad once again use his trip to the UN... to spout paranoid theories and repulsive slurs against Israel," said Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the US mission to the UN.

Red lines

Later, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told the assembly that said pressure to stop Iran's nuclear programme should come from the UN.

"Iran will continue to face the full force of sanctions and scrutiny from this United Nations until it gives up its ambitions to spread a nuclear shadow across the world," Mr Cameron said.

In his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama had again stressed the US would "do what we must" to stop Tehran acquiring nuclear arms.

Six weeks before the US election, he said a nuclear-armed Iran was "not a challenge that can be contained".

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressing Washington to set Tehran "red lines" which, if crossed, would lead to military intervention.

Mr Netanyahu recently warned that Iran was only six or seven months from having "90%" of what it needed to make a nuclear bomb and that it needed to be stopped. He is expected to take the same message to the General Assembly on Thursday.

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