( Associated Press ) - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday said his country would not beg world powers to allow Iran to have a nuclear program.
Instead, he told a crowd of thousands gathered at a shrine to mark the 18th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of 1979 Islamic revolution, that Iran would never back down from its nuclear right.
"Should the Iranian nation beg for the right of exploitation of nuclear energy from the bullying world powers until they accept that the nation has a nuclear right?" Khamenei said.
"No. This is not the way of a free and independent nation. ... Rights cannot be achieved by entreating. If you supplicate, withdraw and show flexibility, arrogant powers will make their threat more serious," said Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters.
Khamenei's remarks came a day after Iran said disputes over its nuclear program could be settled in the coming weeks if the U.N Security Council dropped preparations to debate another round of sanctions against the Islamic Republic and turn over its case to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But the offer fell short of Security Council demands that Iran freeze uranium enrichment.
The Security Council first imposed sanctions on Iran in December and modestly increased them in March over Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment. The council is now preparing to debate on a third round of punitive measures.
An IAEA report in May provided the potential trigger for another round of sanctions by saying Tehran continued to defy the Security Council ban on enrichment and instead was expanding its activities.
Washington and some of its allies fear Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons in violation of its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Iran denies the accusations and says the treaty gives it the right to pursue uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes.