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Iran President: Our Nukes Are Peaceful

Iran's nuclear activities are "transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eye" of United Nations inspectors, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the U.N. General Assembly.

In a speech Tuesday, Ahmadinejad accused some permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — an apparent reference to the United States — of using the powerful U.N. body as a tool of "threat and coercion." He reiterated his nation's commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

"All our nuclear activities are transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eyes" of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Ahmadinejad said.

His speech was sharply critical of the United States and Britain, and focused in large part on what he said was their abuse of the Security Council, on which they are both permanent members with veto power.

"If they have differences with a nation or state, they drag it to the Security Council and as claimants, arrogate to themselves simultaneously the roes of prosecutor, judge and executioner," Ahmadinejad said. "Is this a just order?"

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said in a press gaggle today that Bush did not watch Ahmadinejad's speech last night, and would not engage in point-by-point rebuttal of it.

The U.S. and Britain played central roles in helping craft a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in July that gave Iran until Aug. 31 to suspend uranium enrichment and asked the IAEA to report on Tehran's compliance, dangling the threat of sanctions if Iran refused. Tehran made clear even before the deadline expired that it had no intention of suspending uranium enrichment.

"Clearly, Ahmadinejad's speech was an attempt to rally the developing world, not mentioning Iran's role in terror and, on the contrary, scolding the U.S and the U.K, for oppression in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Iran itself," said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk from the U.N. on Tuesday evening.

"Although Ahmadinejad's attacks on the world powers may ring true with the developing world and it may buy Iran some more time with negotiations, the Security Council is likely to continue to press for sanctions if Iran does not return to a suspension of its nuclear programs."

The speech comes a few hours after President Bush used his U.N. platform to try to quell anti-Americanism in the Middle East by assuring Muslims that he is not waging war against Islam, regardless of what "propaganda and conspiracy theories" they hear.

Mr. Bush also pressed Iran to return at once to international talks on its nuclear program and threatened consequences if the Iranians do not.

But his speech to the United Nations General Assembly was less confrontational and aimed at building bridges with people in the Middle East angry with the United States.

"My country desires peace," Mr. Bush told world leaders in the cavernous main hall at the U.N. "Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror. We respect Islam."

Meanwhile, Thailand's prime minister, facing a military coup at home, canceled a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday evening.

Mr. Bush's speech was the last in a series on the war on terror, timed to surround last week's fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and to set the tone for the final weeks of the U.S. midterm elections.

Mr. Bush's challenge is to build support among skeptical foreign leaders to confront multiple problems in the region: the Iranian nuclear issue, a stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, armed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and unabated violence in Iraq.

Mr. Bush planned to meet later Tuesday with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Addressing Iraqis specifically, Mr. Bush said, "We will not abandon you in your struggle to build a free nation."

Speaking to Iranians, Mr. Bush said their country's future has been clouded because "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."

Mr. Bush declared that Iran "must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions."

But for all the anticipated drama of President Bush and President Ahmadinejad being in the same place at the same time, they never saw each other, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod. Ahmadinejad wasn't in the audience when Mr. Bush spoke, and the president wasn't expected to be at the Iranian president's speech.

On the crisis in Sudan's violence-wracked region of Darfur, Mr. Bush delivered strong warnings to both the United Nations and the Sudanese government, saying that both must act now to avert a further humanitarian crisis.

"The regime in Khartoum is stopping the deployment of this force," Mr. Bush said. "If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act."

With more than 200,000 people killed in three years of fighting in Darfur and the violence threatening to increase again, Mr. Bush said the "credibility of the United Nations is at stake."

Iran's defiant pursuit of a nuclear program was at the top of the agenda when Mr. Bush met earlier with French President Jacques Chirac at the Waldorf Astoria hotel where the U.S. delegation was staying. The French leader is balking at the U.S. drive to sanction Iran for defying Security Council demands that it freeze uranium enrichment.

Chirac proposed on Monday that the international community compromise by suspending the threat of sanctions if Tehran agrees to halt its uranium enrichment program and return to negotiations. The U.S. and other countries fear Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists its uranium enrichment program is to make fuel for nuclear power plants.

"Time is of the essence," the president said. "Now is the time for the Iranians to come to the table."

Both Bush and Chirac stressed they were working together, and the French president said twice that they see "eye to eye."

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