TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran”s hard-line president called for the Bush administration to be tried on war crimes charges related to Iraq and denounced the West for its stance on Iran”s controversial nuclear program, state-run television reported Saturday.
"You, who have used nuclear weapons against innocent people, who have used uranium ordnance in Iraq should be tried as war criminals in courts," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an apparent reference to the United States.
Ahmadinejad didn”t elaborate, but he was apparently referring to the U.S. military”s use of artillery shells packed with depleted uranium, which is far less radioactive than natural uranium and is left over from the process of enriching uranium for use as nuclear fuel.
Since the 2003 start of the Iraq war, U.S. forces have reportedly fired at least 120 tons of shells packed with depleted uranium, which is an extremely dense material used by the U.S. and British militaries for tank armor and armor-piercing weapons. Once fired, the shells melt, vaporize and turn to dust.
"Who in the world are you to accuse Iran of suspicious nuclear armed activity?" asked the Iranian president during a nationally televised ceremony marking the 36th anniversary of the establishment of the volunteer Basij paramilitary force.
Iran has been under intense pressure to curb its nuclear program, which the United States claims is part of an effort to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies such claims and says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity. But it insists that it has the right to fully develop its nuclear program, including enrichment of nuclear fuel.
On Thursday, the 35-board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency met on Iran”s nuclear file after the United States and Europe warned of U.N. Security Council action, accusing Iran of having documents that show how to produce parts of nuclear warheads.
Iran has temporarily stopped its enrichment program, but negotiations between it and Britain, France and Germany broke off in August after Tehran unfroze another part of its program, the conversion of raw uranium into the gas that is used as the feeder stock in enrichment.
Iran has also rejected European calls to halt work at its uranium conversion facility near city of Isfahan in central Iran.
State-run TV said more than nine million Basij members formed human chains in different parts of the country, including thousands who linked hands to make a 20 kilometer (12 miles) long chain along an urban expressway in northern Tehran.
Groups of people also formed chains around the enrichment plant in central Iranian city of Natanz and an under-construction nuclear plant in the southern city of Bushehr, symbolizing their readiness for defending Iran”s nuclear program, Iranian TV reported.
It is estimated that the Basij comprises 15 percent of Iran”s population, or about 10 million people.
Ahmadinejad rejected Western concerns over his country”s nuclear program.
"They say Iran has to stop its peaceful nuclear activity since there is a probability of diversion while we are sure that they are developing and testing (nuclear weapons) every day," Ahmadinejad said. "They speak as if they are the lords of the world."