TEHRAN, Iran – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted Friday that new sanctions won't force Iran to give up its right to enrich uranium, and he blasted the U.N. Security Council as an instrument used by "bullying" Western nations against Tehran.
"We have achieved the nuclear fuel cycle. We won't give it up under pressure. You can't stop the Iranian nation from this path through meetings," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by state media.
But even as he reiterated Tehran would pursue the controversial enrichment program, he has asked to speak before the U.N.'s most powerful body on the day the Security Council votes on a new resolution on stepped up sanctions against his country.
On Thursday, the governments of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany agreed on a new package of sanctions against Tehran for failing to halt the enrichment which the West fears is used for nuclear arms making.
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The resolution is likely to be approved unanimously after winning support of the five veto-wielding members. The full Security Council will consider the measures in coming days.
"Enemies have for years been creating obstacles in the way of the progress of the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad told a gathering in the central city of Khatam. "By misusing international bodies, they seek to prevent Iran's progress."
"This nation stands united ... on its rights and won't give in one iota," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
Ahmadinejad, who has called the Security Council an "illegitimate" body, urged the United States and its allies not to use it as a political instrument against Iran.
"I advise you, it is in your interests to get back from this path. The era of bullying and coercion is over. Your behavior will only result in accumulating the revolutionary wrath of the Iranian nation," IRNA also quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in another central city, Tabas.
"Those who think they have power and capabilities and intend to impose their hegemony on other nations through bullying and selfishness are making a mistake," he added.
Ahmadinejad is touring the central province of Yazd along with members of his Cabinet this week as part of a campaign to bring the government closer to the people, according to IRNA.
In December, the U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed limited sanctions on Iran for refusing to freeze enrichment, which can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or, if taken to a higher degree, the material for atomic weapons.
After Tehran failed to meet a late February deadline to suspend enrichment under the December resolution, senior representatives of Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany began discussing new sanctions that would include an embargo on arms exports and an asset freeze on more individuals and companies linked to Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.
The new sanctions, Ahmadinejad suggested, would only help enhance — not undermine — Iran's development of nuclear technologies.
Iran denies the charge by the United States and some of its European allies that it is using uranium enrichment to secretly build nuclear weapons, claiming its nuclear program is for generating electricity.
But the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, says that while there is no evidence to prove Iran's nuclear program has diverted toward weapons, Tehran has stepped up enrichment rather than halt it.
On Sunday, Iranian state television quoted government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham as saying Ahmadinejad wanted to put his case to the U.N. Security Council as it considers the sanctions resolution.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday the United States has approved a visa for Ahmadinejad before and will do so again, consistent with its obligations as host country for the United Nations.
McCormack pointed out that any U.N. member subject to a Security Council resolution has the right of rebuttal and expressed hope that Ahmadinejad will take advantage of an offer by the Security Council to open a negotiation on Iran's nuclear program.