Iran president vows to complete nuclear program

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Wednesday Iran will defy Western pressure and complete its nuclear program, a day before the U.N. nuclear watchdog is likely to vote to haul Iran before the Security Council. Speaking hours after President George W. Bush's State of the Union address, the Iranian leader also derided the United States as a "hollow superpower" that is "tainted with the blood of nations" and led by a man who became president through a court ruling.

"In nuclear energy, our nation will continue its path until full realization of its rights," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in southern Iran. "Nuclear energy is our right, and we will resist until this right is fully realized," he said.

The crowd responded with chants of "Nuclear energy is our right!" His speech was broadcast live on state-run television. He was speaking in Bushehr, the site of Iran's only nuclear power plant to which Russia is putting the finishing touches.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said late Tuesday that Iran would end snap inspections of its facilities by U.N. monitors as of Saturday, if Tehran is reported to the Security Council.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors is to meet in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, and is expected to report Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council reached surprising agreement Tuesday that Iran should be hauled before that powerful body over its disputed nuclear program.

In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, Bush said the regime in Iran "is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons."

Bush said the United States "will continue to rally the world to confront these threats." But Mottaki warned that reporting or referring Iran to the Security Council would cause Iran to stop cooperation. "If it happens, the government will be required under the law to end the suspension of all nuclear activities it has voluntarily halted," Mottaki said.

"The first victim will be the additional protocol (more in-depth inspections). If it happens, Iran will definitely terminate its cooperation (with the IAEA) as of Saturday, February 4," he said. Ahmadinejad also said Wednesday that Iran won't give in to "some bully countries." "Our nation can't give in to the coercion of some bully countries who imagine they are the whole world and see themselves equal to the entire globe," he said.

"I'm telling the hollow superpower, and the few countries that imagine they can deny our national rights, that the Iranian nation will not be influenced by your false propaganda, and through its solidarity, faith and effort will, hopefully, walk down the long path of pride and victory," Ahmadinejad told the crowd.

Referring to Bush and the Supreme Court decision that decided the 2000 presidential election, he said: "Let me devote my last word to that gentleman who with the power of a billion dollar election campaign and a court ruling has become the president of a big country."

"Those whose hands are tainted with blood of nations and are involved in wars and oppression in any part of the world ... accuse our nation of human rights violations ... we, hopefully, in the near future will put you on trial in courts that will be set up by nations," he added. Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Tuesday that a move to the council, whether notification or reporting, would "be unconstructive and the end of diplomacy,” reports the AP. I.L.

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