Iran Shrugs Off Nuke Criticism

Iran (search) on Tuesday shrugged off growing pressure from the United States to abandon its nuclear program, saying it was not violating international laws that allow the peaceful use of atomic energy.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi (search) said his country was well within its rights to develop its nuclear program, which he insisted was in accordance with regulations set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (search).

Iran will not give up its nuclear program and will not be cowed by Washington, he said.

"We are not going to renounce our universally recognized right" to develop the nuclear program, Kharrazi said.

"We are not concerned about the threats from Americans because they know themselves that Iran is very different from other countries. We are capable enough to defend ourselves," Kharrazi told a meeting organized by a state-run foreign policy think tank.

Kharrazi is on a two-day visit to India, a country with which Tehran has traditionally had close ties.

In his lecture, he touched on many issues, including the Middle East peace process, stability in the region and U.S. efforts to usher in democracy in countries ruled by autocratic regimes. However, much of the lecture and the question-and-answer session that followed focused on Iran's nuclear program.

Tehran, he said, was cooperating with the IAEA and the European countries on its atomic program "constantly and positively."

The United States accuses Iran of having a secret program to make nuclear weapons and Washington has been pushing for sanctions by the U.N. Security Council. Iran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful energy purposes.

He said President Bush was adopting a conciliatory approach toward European countries, as America realized it could not ensure global law and order on its own.

"We have the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council, there is no need for a superpower to act unilaterally. What has happened in Iraq will not be repeated elsewhere. Certainly, the Americans have come to this understanding," Kharrazi said.

In a sharply worded attack on U.S. policy, Kharrazi said the presence of American troops in the Middle East was a "matter of concern" to all countries there.

"America is making a mistake if it thinks it can solve the Middle East problem through force. The Middle East problem cannot be resolved unless the rights of the Palestinians are addressed," he said.

He said Teheran was ready to engage in talks with anyone to bring peace to the Middle East. But the Bush administration had not shown a willingness to engage in talks.

"However, they are talking of regime change. They are talking about sanctions," Kharrazi said.

While Bush spoke of bringing democracy to the region, "their ultimate goal is to destabilize countries in the region."

Democracy could not be foisted on these countries from outside, but had to evolve from within, he said.

"Democracy is a gradual process. It has to evolve indigenously and cannot be imposed," he said.