UNITED NATIONS - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended his country's nuclear program in the UN General Assembly Tuesday and accused the United States and Britain of manipulating the world body to further their own agendas.
"All our nuclear activities are transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eyes of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors," the Iranian leader said. "Why then are there objections to our legally recognized rights?"
In a scathing attack on Washington and London only hours after US President George W. Bush took his own swipe at Iranian leaders, Ahmadinejad slammed "hegemonic powers" who imposed "their exclusionist policies on international decision-making mechanisms, including the Security Council."
He charged that some of the governments objecting to the Iranian nuclear program "have abused nuclear technology for non-peaceful ends including the production of nuclear bombs" and "some even have a bleak record of using them against humanity."
In his own address to the 192-member Assembly, Bush said, addressing the Iranian people: "Your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons."
But the US leader also said he favored "a diplomatic solution to this crisis" and made no mention of the sanctions he has been seeking against Iran for failing to meet a UN-set deadline for freezing uranium enrichment.
Tehran has refused to comply with a Security Council demand that it suspend sensitive nuclear fuel work, arguing that it has the right to conduct uranium enrichment and that its nuclear program is peaceful.
"Some permanent members of the Security Council, even when they are themselves parties to international disputes, conveniently threaten others with the Security Council and declare, even before any decision by the Council, the condemnation of their opponents by the Council," Ahmadinejad said.
More generally, he accused the United States and Britain of manipulating the Security Council to further their own agendas.
"The question needs to be asked: if the governments of the United States or the United Kingdom, who are permanent members of the Security Council, commit aggression, occupation and violation of international law, which of the organs of the UN can take them to account?" he said.
"As long as the Council is unable to act on behalf of the entire international community in a transparent, just and democratic manner, it will neither be legitimate nor effective," he added.
Ahmadinejad called for a thorough reform of the structure and working methods of the 15-member Security Council and urged the General Assembly to "take on the task of reforming the organization, and particularly rescue the Council from its current state."
"In the interim, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the African continent should each have a representative as a permanent member of the Security Council, with veto privilege," he added.
Turning to Iraq, Ahmadinejad accused Washington of using the sectarian violence there to justify an extended "occupation" and said the Security Council had failed to defend the interests of ordinary Iraqis.
Washington regularly accuses Iranian authorities of involvement in the unrest in neighbouring Iraq, but Ahmadinejad said Washington deliberately stoked the insurgency and other troubles.
"It seems that the intensification of hostilities and terrorism serves as a pretext for the continued presence of foreign forces in Iraq," the Iranian leader said.
The Iranian leader also took aim at arch-enemy Israel, accusing the Jewish state of being "a constant source of threat and insecurity in the Middle East region."
He said Israel was also being used "by some powers as an instrument of division, coercion and pressure on the people of the region."
And turning to the root cause of the Palestinian question and the creation of Israel, he said: "under the pretext of protecting some of the survivors (of the Holocaust), the land of Palestine was occupied through war, aggression and the displacement of millions of its inhabitants."
"Reference to these historical realities may cause some disquiet among supporters of this (Israeli) regime. But these are sheer facts and not myth," the Iranian leader said.