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Iranian leader defies U.N.

French and German leaders talk tough. Bush stresses human rights.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday. Ahmadinejad said that “the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed.”

AP photo

UNITED NATIONS — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Tuesday that “the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed,” and indicated that Tehran will disregard U.N. Security Council resolutions imposed by “arrogant powers” and demanding suspension of its uranium enrichment.

Instead, he said, Iran has decided to pursue the monitoring of its nuclear program “through its appropriate legal path,” the International Atomic Energy Agency which is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog.

The U.S. delegation was absent during the speech except for a note taker.

The Iranian leader spoke hours after French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned the assembly that allowing Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons would be an “unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world.”

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened tougher sanctions against Iran if the country remains intractable on the dispute over its nuclear program.

The French president said the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program will only be resolved with a combination of “firmness and dialogue,” while Germany’s leader threatened tougher sanctions if the country refuses to cooperate.

The U.S. and many of its allies, including France, have been pressuring Iran to suspend its nuclear program, which they believe is a cover for weapons development — a charge Iran denies. President Bush has refused to take military action off the table if Iran does not comply.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush called for renewed efforts to enforce the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a striking point of emphasis for a leader who’s widely accused of violating human rights in waging war against terrorism.

The president spoke of every civilized nation’s "responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship." He said the United States was doing its part by imposing new sanctions against the military dictatorship in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Ahmadinejad sat in the U.N. chamber, often checking his watch, during Bush’s remarks. Cuban officials walked out.

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