Iranian President Pledges to Resist Opposition to Nuclear Efforts

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Wednesday that his country will resist Western pressures to constrain its nuclear program, a day before a key vote by the U.N. nuclear watchdog likely to put Iran before the Security Council.

"In nuclear energy, our nation will continue its path until full realization of its rights," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in Bushehr, southern Iran, the site of Iran's only nuclear power plant.

"Nuclear energy is our right, and we will resist until this right is fully realized," he said.

Ahmadinejad's speech, broadcast live on state-run television, came hours after President Bush increased the pressure on Iran, saying in his State of the Union address Tuesday night that Iran "is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons."

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors will meet in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, where Iran's nuclear program may be reported to the Security Council. The five permanent members of the Security Council reached surprising agreement Tuesday that Iran should be hauled before the powerful body over its disputed nuclear program.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said late Tuesday that Iran would end surprise inspections of its facilities by U.N. monitors and resume frozen nuclear activities if Tehran is reported to the Security Council.

"If it happens, the government will be required under the law to end the suspension of all nuclear activities it has voluntarily halted," Mottaki said.

Ahmadinejad also said Wednesday that Iran won't give in to "bully countries."

"Our nation can't give in to the coercion of some bully countries who imagine they are the whole world and see themselves equal to the entire globe," he said.

His speech drew chants of "Nuclear energy is our right" from the crowd.

Iran insists its nuclear program is civilian only and has no other purpose than to generate power. Enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material needed to build a warhead.