Nuclear issue closed, Iran's president says
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran told the United Nations General Assembly this afternoon that "the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed," asserting that his government would disregard calls by "arrogant powers" to end its uranium enrichment.
Ahmadinejad said that his country's nuclear power development was "completely peaceful and transparent," and that his government had delivered "the most extensive cooperation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.
"Thus far, Iran has fulfilled all of its obligations," he said, and would "disregard unlawful and political impositions by the arrogant powers," a thinly veiled reference to the United States.
The United States is not alone in calling for more sanctions against Iran's nuclear buildup.
Earlier in the day, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France warned the General Assembly that allowing Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons would be an "unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world."
And Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called for tougher sanctions against Iran if it does not give provide more cooperation in the dispute over its nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad spoke for almost 40 minutes before a forum with many empty seats. President George W. Bush himself barely mentioned Iran in his remarks before the United Nations General Assembly earlier Tuesday, and administration officials are doing their best to ignore the Iranian president while on his American visit.
While Ahmadinejad did not provide more details in his rambling speech about what he meant by the nuclear issue being "closed," he said later at a news conference that he would not discuss the matter with the United States and other countries.
"The issue is closed as a political issue," he said.
His speech came a day after Ahmadinejad addressed an audience at Columbia University in which he said that there were no homosexuals in Iran and that Palestinians were being punished for the Holocaust. The Columbia speech brought him derision in many Western circles, but it apparently delighted audiences back in his country, who have come to depend on the Iranian leader to deliver his fiery anti-American sentiments.
In the United Nations speech, Ahmadinejad used coded language to make several references to the Holocaust and World War II, and asserted that the United States and Israel are making Palestinians pay for what happened 60 years ago.
"Some big powers still behave like the victors of the World War and regard other states and nations, even those that had nothing to do with the war, as the vanquished and humiliate other nations and demand extortion through condescending positions similar to that of the master-servant relationship of the medieval ages," he said.
"For more than 60 years, Palestine, as compensation for the loss that they incurred during the war in Europe, has been under occupation of the illegal Zionist regime," he continued. "The occupiers are protected and praised, while the innocent Palestinians are subjected to political, military and propaganda onslaught."