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Iran: In First UN Speech, President Ahmadinejad Aims Criticism At U.S.

Ahmadinejad (file photo) Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad did not mention the country's nuclear dispute with Western powers in his first address to the UN General Assembly. But in veiled references to the United States, Ahmadinejad spoke out against states which he said abuse their power, engage in intimidation, and threaten preemption as a security measure.

United Nations, 15 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The Iranian president began his speech to the UN summit with an expression of sympathy for the victims of Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

But much of Mahmud Ahmadinejad's remaining address included critical references to the United States. He accused the United States of abusing its privilege as UN host state by making it hard for other state representatives to access UN headquarters. Ahmadinejad himself was provided late clearance by U.S. officials concerned about his role in the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

His speech criticized unilateralism, a charge often used against Washington by its critics, and what he called "the imposition of destructive wars on peoples for the sake of security and prosperity of a few powers." Ahmadinejad also spoke out against unfounded preemptive acts. He declined to be specific but there are concerns in Iran that its nuclear facilities might be bombed by U.S. or Israeli forces because of U.S. charges Iran is seeking to covertly develop a nuclear-weapons program.

"Any license for preemptive measures which are essentially based on gauging intentions rather than objective facts and are in fact a modern manifestation of interventionist and warmongering tendencies of the past is a blatant contradiction to the very foundations of the United Nations and the letter and the spirit of its charter," he said.

During Ahmadinejad's address, two lower-level officials could be seen taking notes in the U.S. section of the General Assembly hall.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran and regularly includes it on lists of states sponsoring terrorism. It accuses Tehran of supporting terrorist acts by Lebanon-based Hizballah and believes its nuclear-power program is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies this and asserts its right to peaceful nuclear power.

President George W. Bush, speaking hours before Ahmadinejad, did not mention Iran by name but raised concerns about state sponsors of terror.

"We must send a clear message to the rulers of outlaw regimes that sponsor terror and pursue weapons of mass murder: 'You will not be allowed to threaten the peace and stability of the world,'" Bush said.

Ahmadinejad is expected today to provide the first insight into his promised new proposal for resolving the impasse over Iran's nuclear program. He meets with officials of the three European powers conducting talks with Tehran over the nuclear dispute -- Britain, France, and Germany. He declined to mention the issue in yesterday's speech but is expected to discuss new Iranian proposals during a second speech in the Assembly on 17 September.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking in a special Security Council session, raised the prospect of referring Iran's case there.

"If a state fails in its obligations under the nonproliferation treaty it is legitimate, once dialogue has been exhausted, to refer it to the Security Council. It is in this spirit that France urges Iran to conform to the resolutions of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and comply with its international commitments and first the Paris agreement."

U.S. officials were planning to hold a range of talks with key UN members this week to press for support on the UN's nuclear agency for referring Iran's case to the Security Council. Russia and China have expressed resistance to this in the past.