TEHRAN // Iran will not retreat "one iota" from its nuclear programme - but the world is being misled by claims it seeks atomic weapons, the president said yesterday.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments, broadcast live on state TV, were his first reaction since a UN watchdog report that Tehran was on the brink of developing a nuclear warhead.
The French foreign minister, Alain Juppe, said France would support boosting sanctions against Iran to an "unprecedented scale" if they stonewalled investigations, while Israel and others said military options were still possible.
"This nation won't retreat one iota from the path it is going," Mr Ahmadinejad told thousands of people during a visit to Shahr-e-Kord in central Iran.
"Why are you ruining the prestige of the [UN nuclear] agency for absurd US claims?" said Mr Ahmadinejad as he chided the UN International Atomic Energy Agency for siding with the US.
"The Iranian nation is wise. It won't build two bombs against 20,000 [nuclear] bombs you have," he said, apparently referring to the West and others.
"But it builds something you can't respond to - ethics, decency, monotheism and justice."