TEHRAN, Iran — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday challenged the authority of the U.N. Security Council as Iran faces a deadline to halt its uranium enrichment and he called for a televised debate with President Bush on world issues.
The Security Council has given Iran until Thursday to suspend enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or material for weapons.
"The U.S. and Britain are the source of many tensions," Ahmadinejad said at a news conference. "At the Security Council, where they have to protect security, they enjoy the veto right. If anybody confronts them, there is no place to take complaints to.
"This (veto right) is the source of problems of the world. … It is an insult to the dignity, independence, freedom and sovereignty of nations," he said.
Ahmadinejad rejected any suspension of enrichment, even if U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked for it during an upcoming visit to Iran.
"The use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is the right of the Iranian nation. The Iranian nation has chosen this path. … No one can prevent it," he said.
Iran last week responded to a Western incentives package aimed at getting Tehran to roll back its nuclear program. Iranian officials said the Islamic country did not agree to halt enrichment - the key demand - before engaging in further talks.
Ahmadinejad called the response an opportunity for the two sides to resolve the issue and he didn't rule out the possibility of direct talks with the United States.
"The opportunity the Iranian nation has given to other countries today is a very exceptional opportunity for a fair resolution of the issue," he said.
The Iranian president also called Israel a threat to peace and stability in the Middle East.
"The Zionist regime has deprived the Palestinian nation and other nations of the region of a single day of peace. In the past 60 years, it has imposed tens of wars on the Palestinian nation and others," he said.