UNITED NATIONS - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took aim at U.S. policies in Iraq and Lebanon Tuesday in an address to world leaders, and accused Washington of unfairly attacking Tehran's nuclear program, which he insisted was peaceful.
Taking the stage at the U.N. General Assembly hours after President Bush, he also accused the United States of having double standards by criticizing his country's nuclear program while maintaining its own nuclear weapons arsenal.
Ahmadinejad insisted Iran's nuclear activities are "transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eye" of United Nations inspectors and reiterated his nation's commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as it faces accusations that it is seeking to develop atomic weapons.
Bush, in his speech earlier Tuesday, singled out Iran as a sponsor of terrorism. But both countries avoided any direct confrontation of the nuclear standoff amid intense diplomacy on the sidelines of the session to resolve the issue. Neither was present for the other's speech.
The U.S. and Britain played central roles in helping craft a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in July that gave Iran until Aug. 31 to suspend uranium enrichment and asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to report on Tehran's compliance, dangling the threat of sanctions if Iran refused. Tehran made clear even before the deadline expired that it had no intention of suspending uranium enrichment.
Ahmadinejad accused some permanent members of the Security Council who wield veto power - an obvious reference to the United States - of using the decision-making body as a tool of "threat and coercion."
"The question needs to be asked: if the governments of the United States or the United Kingdom, who are permanent members of the Security Council, commit aggression, occupation and violation of international law, which of the U.N. organs can take them into account?," he asked.
"If they have differences with a nation or state, they drag it to the Security Council," and take the roles of "prosecutor, judge and executioner," he said. "Is this a just order?"
He pointed to Lebanese suffering during the recent Israel-Hezbollah war as an example.
"We witnessed the Security Council ... was practically incapacitated by certain powers to even call for a cease-fire," he said, referring to the fact that the conflict lasted 34 days despite calls for an immediate truce.
The Iranian leader also had harsh words about U.S. efforts in Iraq, saying "the occupiers are incapable of establishing security in Iraq" and every day hundreds of people get killed "in cold blood."
Ahmadinejad claimed that numerous terrorists apprehended by the Iraqi government were "let loose under various pretexts by the occupiers."
"It seems that intensification of hostilities and terrorism serves as a pretext for the continued presence of foreign forces in Iraq," he said.
Bush spoke directly to the people of Iran saying America respects Islam, the Iranian nation's rich history and culture and that he looks to a day when the two peoples "can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace."
That's very different from 2002 when Bush said Iran was part of an "axis of evil."