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Iranian President Condemns Interventionism, Downplays Nuclear Issue

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned what he said were interventionist policies by world powers Wednesday in a U.N. General Assembly address that offered no proposals for ending the impasse over his country's nuclear program. The United States and key European allies are pushing for referral of the nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council.

Iranian officials had suggested in advance that Mr. Ahmadinejad might use the U.N. speech to try to defuse international concern about his country's nuclear intentions.

However the address, the new Iranian president's first appearance in a major international forum, lacked specifics on the issue and included only a general mention of an increasing danger posed by the production and use of weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, an Islamic hard-liner elected in June, broadly condemned what he said were pre-emptive policies by a few world powers, which he described as a modern manifestation of interventionism and war-mongering.

In the speech, which was laced with religious references, the Iranian president also called for broader representation on the U.N. Security Council, lamenting among other things that no Islamic country is among its permanent members. He is heard through an interpreter:

"I wish to underline our deep dismay that over 50 Islamic countries encompassing more than one-point-two billion people do not have a permanent seat in the Security Council, nor does Africa with its huge capabilities and potentials, and that the very vast continent of Asia, with its ancient civilizations, has only one permanent seat," said Mr. Ahmadinejad.

The United States announced it had granted Mr. Ahmadinejad a visa to attend the U.N. meeting only a week ago, despite what officials in Washington said were lingering suspicions that he took part in the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran as student leader during Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

The Iranian President alluded to the issue twice in the speech, saying the host country, the United States, should not have any special rights or privileges over any other U.N. member and must give free access to all.

"The United Nations must have the possibility to enable all governments, civil society organizations, and NGO's from all over the world to freely travel to its headquarters, without the selective hindrances of the host country and to engage without any fear, in serious dialogue," Mr. Ahmadinejad added.

Though the Iranian leader all but ignored the nuclear issue, it has been a major subject in talks on the sidelines of the U.N. meetings by U.S. officials and those of Britain, France and Germany, the European Union states which have tried to mediate with Tehran.

Iran has backed out of the Paris agreement it made in November of last year with the so-called E.U.-Three to suspend sensitive nuclear activity pending further negotiations on the issue.

Addressing the U.N.'s world summit earlier Wednesday, French Prime Minister Dominque de Villepin warned Iran to keep its nuclear promises or face action in the U.N. Security Council.

Also heard through in interpreter, the French leader said the proliferation of nuclear weapons requires a resolute international response.

"If a state fails in its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is legitimate for the Security Council to be seized of the matter, once dialogue has been exhausted. It is in this spirit that France urges Iran to comply with the resolutions of the IAEA and its international commitments, including the Paris agreement," he said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) governing board convenes next week in Vienna for a meeting that could produce a referral of the issue to the Security Council, or a deadline for Iran to halt suspect nuclear activity.

The United States has long held that Iran's nominally peaceful nuclear program has a secret weapons component.

On Tuesday, President Bush said Iran has a right to a civilian program provided there are strict guidelines barring it from diverting enriched uranium or acquiring weapons expertise.