"Source: Agence France Presse 05/25/2007
TEHRAN, May 25, 2007 (AFP) -
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that Iran will continue developing its nuclear programme to the limit as threats loom of yet more UN sanctions against the country. "Iran's nuclear technology is being developed each day and will reach the farthest possible limit," the president said in a speech in Isfahan province reported by state news agency IRNA.
"The great powers are using every means to prevent Iran's progress, but the Iranian people, with strength and resistance, will brush aside the obstacles placed along the way by those powers and will continue their path to the summit of progress."
He was speaking as the United States was urging its European allies, Russia, and China to toughen sanctions on Iran for its defiance of UN demands to rein in its suspect nuclear programme.
"We need to strengthen our sanction regime," President George W. Bush said on Thursday a day after UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency said Tehran had accelerated its uranium enrichment efforts, which can be a key step in atomic bomb-making.
Ahmadinejad said in response that the "great powers should renounce their crude methods against Iran, such as adopting sanctions, and should apologise to the people of Iran."
He repeated his oft-stated insistence that Tehran will not budge one iota from its efforts to develop nuclear power, something it claims the right to do under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it signed.
Iran insists that its programme is aimed solely at developing nuclear energy for its growing population, but Washington and its allies are convinced Tehran is using the programme as a cover to develop nuclear weapons.
In a jab at the United States for boosting its naval presence in the Gulf, Ahmadinejad said "if your missiles, aircraft carriers and bombers could do anything they would have helped you get out of the quagmire of Iraq."
The carriers USS John Stennis and USS Nimitz sailed through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf this week along with a helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ships carrying an estimated 2,200 marines.
The US Navy said the Gulf exercises were not directed at Iran, but Mustafa Alani, senior analyst with the UAE-based Gulf Research Centre, said it was no coincidence that the powerful flotilla arrived on the day of the UN report.
"The aim of this step, which coincides entirely with the end of the UN deadline (to suspend uranium enrichment), is to send a clear message to Iran that a military option is available to Washington," Alani said.
Ahmadinejad also accused the United States and its allies of having gone into Iraq four years ago as part of a strategy to encircle Iran, and said "they now need the help of the Iranian people to be rescued."
His comments also come as US and Iranian diplomats prepared for historic talks on Iraqi security in Baghdad on Monday.
Both sides have said their discussions will focus strictly on Iraq, and will not touch on other issues such as Iran's nuclear programme.
Iran believes that the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq is a prerequisite if security is to be restored to its war-ravaged neighbour.
The United States charges Iran with fomenting the violence through its support for extremist groups, mainly Shiite. "