- Angela Merkel - Barack Obama - IAEA - Nicolas Sarkozy - nuclear Iran
AFP - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brushed off Western criticism Friday over a newly revealed nuclear enrichment plant, saying it was "perfectly legal."
Iran had informed the IAEA international nuclear watchdog about the plant's existence and "should be encouraged for that. It was perfectly legal," he said at a press conference in New York.
Denying that the revelation had plunged relations between Iran and Western powers into crisis, Ahmadinejad said he was "very hopeful" about talks with the IAEA in Geneva on October 1.
"We decided to refrain from reacting strongly to what happened this morning. We showed restraint," he said in his first public remarks since news broke of the facilty at Qom, 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of Tehran
The United States and European powers led the outcry Friday claiming that Iran, which had previously declared only one such plant at Natanz, had attempted to dupe the international community.
The surprise revelation appeared likely to fuel momentum toward new sanctions against the country, which has already been punished by the United Nations for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment.
US, Israeli and other critics suspect Iran is covertly trying to build an atomic weapon, but Iran says it needs nuclear fuel only for civilian power. Russia is building the country's first nuclear power station.
Ahmadinejad repeated his insistence that his government was not interested in becoming a nuclear military power.
"Our position with respect to the nuclear weapons is quite clear," he said. "We believe that nuclear weapons are against humanity."