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Iran's Ahmedinejad Steals Spotlight On Busy Day At UN


The leaders of Lebanon, Serbia and Colombia headed a list of heads of state and ministers addressing day three of the annual U.N. General Assembly debate. On the sidelines, the Security Council held a high-level discussion on the Middle East. But Iran's president stole the spotlight.

Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmedinejad told a news conference his country is not developing nuclear weapons, and does not need to. Speaking through an interpreter, he said such weapons have lost their effectiveness in preventing conflict. "The bottom line is, we don't need a bomb. Unlike what others think. Regretfully, some believe that the nuclear bomb can be effective in international relations. They're wrong, because the time for nuclear bombs has ended," he said.

Mr. Ahmedinejad suggested Iran is prepared to negotiate a suspension of its uranium enrichment program under the right conditions. "We have said that under fair conditions and just conditions, we will negotiate," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was also at the U.N. for a high-level Security Council meeting on the Middle East. Asked about Mr. Ahmedinejad's comments, she said there has been no change in international demands that enrichment activities be halted unconditionally.

"Iran has been told by the international community through a Security Council resolution that they should suspend, and if they suspend, then negotiations can begin. It's as simple as that. I don't think we need any further conditionality," she said.

The indirect Ahmedinejad-Rice exchange took place as the annual General Assembly debate carried on a short distance away.

There, Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud condemned what he called Israel's 'barbarous aggression' during the recent military operation against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. He blasted the Security Council for its failure to act promptly to stop the violence.

"Regrettably, the United Nations Security Council looked powerless in its attempts to stop the slaughter of Lebanon's children and protect the peace in Lebanon and the Middle East." he said.

Serbia's President Boris Tadic also addressed the Assembly. With a decision expected shortly on the future status of its inpdependence minded province of Kosovo, Mr. Tadic argued that the best solution for the region's ethnic Albanian majority lies in a loose association with Belgrade. He spoke through an interpreter.

"The autonomy offered by Serbia to Kosovo Albanians is broader than any currently enjoyed by any region or federal unit in Europe. In our view, that is a sustainable, stable and longstanding solution that would open a new chapter in the long history of Serbian-Albanian relations," he said.

The Security Council is slated to take up the issue of Kosovo's future Friday as the U.N.'s busy week continues . The General Assembly debate, meanwhile, features an address from the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani.