Annan Denies Claim That He Told Iran to Ignore Uranium Deadline

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday was trying to settle a flap over a potentially damaging claim made earlier in the day by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad said Annan had told him Iran could ignore a Security Council resolution requiring the country to cease enriching uranium by Aug. 31 or face economic sanctions. The Security Council sought the resolution in the face of rising fears over Iran's possible moves toward building nuclear weapons: Uranium enrichment is one of the key factors in that process.

But in its most recent report, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, found that Iran had continued enriching uranium through the deadline, bypassing Security Council Resolution 1696.

"We didn't understand and couldn't understand why a resolution was passed in the midst of an examination of a package," Ahmadinejad said. "We think [the Security Council] was probably under pressure by some powers who constantly want to place pressure on countries. The secretary-general told me to disregard what has happened for the time being, resort to diplomacy."

CountryWatch: Iran

A spokesman for Annan said that was not the case, though, and Annan "did not tell Iran to disregard" the resolution.

If Ahmadinejad's claim holds true, it would run afoul of the U.N. charter, which makes clear that the secretary-general reports to the Security Council. And according to Annan's Web site, his duties include upholding the "values and moral authority of the United Nations."

Annan visited Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Sept. 3. FOX News reported that the visit was being planned Aug. 18, meaning that officials from both offices were in contact some 12 days before the deadline to cease uranium enrichment was set to expire.

FOX News' Jonathan Wachtel and James Rosen contributed to this report.