Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flouted any more United Nations sanctions on his nuclear program as illegal Saturday, insisting he will not submit to any such pressure based on the United States and Britain "lying" about the evidence.
The Iranian leader, wrapping up two days of talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, lambasted the Western allies for pressing for another round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. Ahmadinejad let loose when asked by an Associated Press reporter to discuss his effort to evade more UN sanctions by meeting with Uganda, a non-permanent member of the 15-nation council. The council is preparing to consider a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear defiance.
"The nuclear issue of Iran has turned into a big test for the entire world," Ahmadinejad said, adding that the US and Britain "say they are concerned about the building of a nuclear bomb, but they are lying like the other previous lies."
He was referring to unsubstantiated US claims that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction, a key Bush administration rationale for the 2003 Iraq war. An exhaustive search turned up no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or any evidence there was an active program to develop it.
"The measures that have been taken or are going to be taken by the United States and its allies in the UN Security Council lack the legal validity," Ahmadinejad said. "We do not submit, and we do not accept any kind of pressures. And we do not follow the illegal decisions. We think by issuing resolutions against us, Mr. Obama will suffer more."
Obama gained the presidency on the premise he would make a "change in the tough behavior" of the Bush administration, Ahmadinejad said, but "the fact that he's going to follow, to take decisions against the Iranian people, is an end to his stature." Obama has been pressing for more economic sanctions against Iran because of its alleged failure to comply with its responsibilities as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Obama has said Iran cannot be allowed to become a nuclear weapons state. Russia and China until recently had blocked attempts by the US, Britain and France, the three other permanent Security Council members, to introduce new sanctions. But Russia recently expressed a readiness to support "smart" sanctions that do not target the Iranian people, while China appears willing if the drafts submitted by the West are watered down.
Museveni, for his part, walked a fine line between seeking new investment from Iran while risking alienating the West. Uganda, he said, has not yet ruled out the possibility of voting for sanctions against Iran.
"We are not idiots of anybody," he said. "So after we have got the facts, we will consult our African brothers, and see what position we will take."
Iran, one of several nations vying to build an oil refinery for Uganda's untapped potential, has been under harsh criticism from Western nations for pressing ahead with uranium enrichment programs it says are to produce nuclear energy. The West fears the militant Islamic state could develop nuclear weapons.
But as part of its diplomatic offensive, Iran has agreed to give the UN nuclear monitoring agency greater inspection and monitoring rights to a sensitive site where it is enriching uranium to higher levels.
The Iranian and Ugandan presidents, as part of their joint communique, said they were committed to disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But they also said developing countries should have the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Iran began enriching uranium to near 20 percent two months ago and says it will be turned into fuel rods for research reactors that manufacture medical isotopes for cancer patients. It says it was forced to take this step because major powers would not compromise over a moribund plan that would have supplied the rods from abroad. The International Atomic Energy Agency had pushed in vain for greater access to the enrichment operation since the start of the project.
Ahmadinejad said Saturday that IAEA would have "a commitment and the obligation to provide the enriched uranium of 20 percent for our research reactor, but we have accepted to exchange fuels with them. The proposal is still on the table."