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Iran Leader Defends Nuke Plan

Facing international pressure to restrain his country's nuclear energy program, Iran's president said Saturday that wealthy nations cannot keep today's technology for themselves alone and that Iran must be prepared to defend itself if necessary.

Concluding a three-day visit to Venezuela, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami (search) said neither threats nor incentives will alter Tehran's determination to develop peaceful nuclear technology.

"Each country that tries to do its will [or] be independent, is pressured," he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush's (search) government insists Iran's uranium enrichment program is aimed at developing a bomb, but Iranian officials have repeatedly denied it and said they are simply developing atomic energy.

"Now it is different than in the last century, when the great powers could have all [technology] exclusively," Khatami said.

"Maybe they think that our power depends on our military power ... maybe they think our power depends on sophisticated weapons and weapons of mass destruction," Khatami said. However, he said, Iran's strength comes through seeking better technology to aid development.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also defended Iran on Friday, saying the country has a right to nuclear energy.

About 2,000 Chavez supporters marched through Caracas on Saturday protesting what they said could be an "attack" by the United States against Venezuela.

"We won't let the empire violate our sovereignty and try to kill commander Hugo Chavez," said Pedro Ordonez, an unemployed 38-year-old who said he was prepared to defend the president "with our blood."

The populist leader has repeatedly accused Bush's government of backing plots to oust him, but U.S. officials have flatly denied it.

Chavez has threatened to stop selling oil to the United States if it tries to "hurt" Venezuela. He has been critical of U.S. actions across the world, including the war in Iraq.

While visiting Ciudad Bolivar with Khatami, Chavez accused the media of seeking to create "false ideas, like the one about Islamic fundamentalism." However, he said: "What can be more dangerous than Washington?"