Iran capable of defending its own rights: president

(AFP) - Iran is capable of defending its own rights and interests, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a visit to Indonesia, as he reiterated his nation's right to pursue its nuclear ambitions.

"The Iranians are capable of defending their own rights and interests," he told a press briefing after meeting his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"The resistance of the Iranian people is not only in defence of the rights of the Islamic world but also the rights of all the people in the world," he said in response to a question about Iran's nuclear program, reports Trend.

"We think that this is the right of every nation: to use modern science and technology, and the right has been enshrined in the previsions of the NPT," he said, referring to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The NPT is the cornerstone of the global effort against the spread of nuclear weapons.

Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to generate atomic energy, as is authorised by the NPT. But the process can be extended to make weapons, sparking Western demands for a suspension of Tehran's enrichment work.

Ahmadinejad was speaking for the first time since he sent an 18-page letter to US President George W. Bush, which US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed as containing "nothing new" offering hope of resolving the dispute.

Iran has said it is awaiting a reply from the US president.

Bush has not ruled out military action against Iran, which Washington also accuses of being the world's "leading sponsor of terror", though he said on Tuesday that diplomacy remained the first and most important option.

Ahmadinejad arrived earlier in Jakarta for a visit during which he may ask Indonesia to play a mediating role with Western nations over his country's contested nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad was greeted amid tight security by Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda and about two dozen Indonesian and Iranian officials.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said Indonesia could "play the role of a middleman" between Iran and its Western opponents.

During his five-day visit, Ahmadinejad is expected to sign agreements on energy cooperation and tourism.

He is also due to give a speech at the University of Indonesia, hold talks with students at the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University and meet the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce.

His plans include attending Friday prayers at Jakarta's Istiqlal mosque after meeting Islamic leaders, and then flying to Bali to attend a meeting of the Developing-8 (D-8) group of large Muslim countries which opens Friday.

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