As senior diplomats from six major world powers prepared to discuss strategies for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis at a meeting in Moscow, hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stepped up his rhetoric, saying Iran's military is ready to punish any attacker.
At a military parade in Tehran, President Ahmadinejad warned that Iran's enemies would regret attacking the country.
"The Iranian army could defend the country and cut off the hand off any aggressor and the enemy would be left in shame," he said. "The Iranian army should be ready, should be equipped with the latest technology and they have to be careful."
Iran announced last week it has succeeded in enriching uranium - an important step toward producing nuclear energy or a weapon. Mr. Ahmadinejad has remained defiant in the face of a U.N. Security Council demand that Iran halt its uranium-enrichment program by the end of April.
Iran claims its nuclear program is intended for peaceful use in power stations, but the United States and Britain suspect Tehran is secretly planning to build an atomic bomb. They say that unless Iran stops its uranium-enrichment efforts, they will seek to impose international sanctions.
Russia and China, which have close economic ties to Iran, oppose such disciplinary measures. The four countries, plus Germany and France, are meeting in Moscow to discuss possible solutions to the crisis.
Although U.S. officials have denied that they are actively considering military action against Iran, they have also refused to rule out the use of force.
In his speech to military officers at the parade, Mr. Ahmedinejad said Iran should be ready and vigilant against attack, but he also acknowledged that peace and stability are in the country's interest.
He says the elite Iranian army should be serving human beings, especially Iran's neighbors in the region, and that Iran's power is not a threat to any country.
Meanwhile, on the streets of Tehran, Iranians such as Mehran Saadi said they hoped the United Nations would respect Iran's rights.
He says he expects the U.N. Security Council members to make a fair decision on Iran because the Iranian nation has tried hard for years to achieve nuclear technology. He says he hopes Iran's case is decided considering the legitimate rights of the Iranian people.
Adding to growing tensions is a claim by President Ahmadinejad in a speech last week that Iran is testing a P-2 centrifuge for enriching uranium. A P-2 centrifuge is vastly more efficient than the P-1 device Iran has already used to do small-scale enrichment.
The issue of the P-2 centrifuge is likely to come up when International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors arrive Friday in Iran. The agency will visit nuclear and uranium enrichment sites throughout the country and report its findings to the U.N. Security Council April 28.