Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reaffirmed on Saturday his country's "inalienable right" to nuclear energy and invited other nations to join Iran in ensuring that Tehran is not producing nuclear weapons.
He told a press conference after delivering his speech to the 60th UN General Assembly that it is the "inalienable right" of Iran to peaceful use of nuclear energy, citing the relevant articles of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
Iran is currently under the pressure of the European Union (EU) to again suspend its uranium conversion activities before Sept. 19, when the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would gather for a conference.
The EU and the United States have threatened to refer Iran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council if Tehran defies the deadline.
The EU has been trying to dissuade Iran from its efforts to build nuclear fuel reactors, including uranium enrichment and conversion activities.
Tehran resumed conversion activities on Aug. 8 and rejected a comprehensive nuclear proposal submitted by the EU a few days earlier.
The IAEA is to consider on Monday whether to take the Iranian nuclear issue to the Security Council, a move the United States has been pushing.
In his speech at the United Nations, Ahmadinejad accused the Europeans and Americans of "misrepresenting" Iran's desire for civilian nuclear energy as "the pursuit of nuclear weapons."
"The Islamic Republic of Iran reiterates its previously and repeatedly declared position that in accordance with our religious principles, pursuit of nuclear weapons is prohibited," Ahmadinejad said.
He said that although Iran has rich oil resources, its fossil fuel may run out sooner or later. Therefore, it is only right for Tehran to turn to nuclear energy, he argued, noting that some countries with an oil output four times as much as Iran still have nuclear energy.
When asked if the Iranian government would allow foreign journalists to tour its nuclear facilities, the president said Iran's nuclear activities are among the most transparent in the world, claiming that even ordinary people can see and tour its nuclear facilities "day in and day out."
Ahmadinejad said his country does not care much about Washington's threat to refer its nuclear issue to the UN Security Council, but he said the Security Council, as an important forum for providing security to different countries and defending their rights, "must not allow itself to be turned into an instrument in denying a nation of its inalienable right."
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the United Nations on Saturday to be tough with Iran over the nuclear issue, but said there was still time for diplomacy.
She urged Iran to resume nuclear talks that broke down last month with the EU troika -- Britain, Germany and France -- or the Security Council should intervene.
"It (the United Nations) must be able to deal with great challenges like terrorism and nuclear proliferation, especially when countries like Iran threaten the effectiveness of the global nonproliferation regime," she said.
"When diplomacy has been exhausted, the Security Council must become involved," she said.
In his speech at the United Nations, Ahmadinejad also denied media reports that Iran will share nuclear technology with other Islamic countries, saying his remarks were quoted out of context.
Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran remains willing to hold talks and to cooperate with the international community on its nuclear standoff.
"Iran is still willing to negotiate, expects to reach understanding on the issue and prepares for any type of international cooperation to the effect," he said.
The president said the negotiations between Iran and the three EU powers should be open to other countries and he singled out South Africa for its constructive stance.
"I thank South Africa. They can potentially be a negotiating partner," Ahmadinejad said, adding that Iran will not limit the negotiation to only some countries.
Ahmadinejad also offered to involve foreign firms in its uranium-enrichment program in a bid to end a standoff over its suspended nuclear program.
"As a further confidence-building measure and in order to provide the greatest degree of transparency, the Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to engage in serious partnership with the private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of uranium enrichment program in Iran," he said.
"This represents the most far-reaching step, outside all requirements of the NPT, being proposed by Iran as a further confidence building measure," he added.