http://today.reuters.com/news/articl...src=rss&rpc=22TEHRAN (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voiced defiance on Tuesday as a deadline neared for Iran to halt work the West fears is a step toward building nuclear bombs, and challenged President Bush to a televised debate.
"Peaceful nuclear energy is the right of the Iranian nation. The Iranian nation has chosen that based upon international regulations, it wants to use it and no one can stop it," he told a news conference.
The U.N. Security Council has given Iran until Thursday to suspend uranium enrichment -- a process which can produce fuel for civilian reactors or explosive material for warheads -- and has threatened sanctions unless it does so.
Ahmadinejad said Iran had laid out a framework for talks in its reply to an offer by six world powers of incentives in exchange for a suspension of enrichment. That framework provided an "exceptional opportunity" to solve the nuclear dispute.
Asked specifically if Iran would halt enrichment, even for a short period, he replied: "In that (Iran's response to the six-nation offer) we announced that any kind of dialogue should be based upon the certain rights of the Iranian nation."
He did not elaborate.
Ahmadinejad condemned the U.S. and British roles in the world since World War Two.
"We think the special privileges that America and Britain are taking advantage of today are the origin of all disturbances in the world," he said.
"Isn't it time that international relations are founded on democracy and equal rights of the nations?"
"I suggest holding a live TV debate with Mr. George W. Bush to talk about world affairs and the ways to solve those issues," he said.
"The debate should be go uncensored in order for the American people to be able to listen to what we say and they should not restrict the American people from hearing the truth."
He brushed off calls by the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, for sanctions if Tehran ignores the deadline.
"Bolton is free to say whatever he wants ... our nation is a strong nation. A nation that has been able to attain the nuclear fuel cycle with its bare hands can solve any other problems."
MAJOR POWERS DIVIDED
Washington has called for a swift response if Iran does not meet the deadline. But analysts say divisions at the United Nations about how to handle Iran's file could delay such a move.
Iran has shown no sign it will halt enrichment. The world's fourth largest oil exporter has shrugged off the threat of sanctions and said such a move would simply push oil prices up to intolerable levels for industrialized economies.
"If the Western countries have the intention to have comprehensive, long-term cooperation with Iran then they should not pursue imposing sanctions on Iran," Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said on state TV late on Monday.
Before Ahmadinejad spoke on Tuesday, oil was holding above $70 a barrel as worries about Iran helped to brake a steep sell-off.
Larijani said Iran's effort to master the nuclear fuel cycle was "irreversible" -- echoing earlier comments by the president and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran has said it is ready for immediate talks on its atomic plans but has refused to suspend enrichment before negotiations start, which was proposed in the package of incentives offered by the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany.
Russia and China, big trading partners of Iran who have veto powers in the U.N. Security Council, may oppose sanctions moves.
Washington, which already imposes unilateral sanctions on Iran, has suggested it could consider action outside the Security Council with other like-minded countries.
Great: a lunatic vs. a mental midget. Should be entertaining, to say the least.
'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." --Sinclair Lewis
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