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Bush, Ahmadinejad Air Competing Views at U.N.

President Bush urges world leaders to support what he called "the forces of moderation in the Middle East." And addressing the Iranian people directly, he said that its rulers are the greatest obstacles to Iran's progress.

The president's speech to the United Nations General Assembly came against the backdrop of increasing criticism of his policies, including the war in Iraq and his hard-line stance on Iran. The president tried to show a softer side, saying the United States' goal is to support moderates in the Middle East.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressing the assembly hours after President Bush, criticized countries like the United States that have sought to curtail Iran's nuclear program.

Saying that countries with permanent seats on the Security Council have an undue privilege, Ahmadinejad suggested widening membership on the panel by giving permanent seats to representative nations from Africa, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

"Some seek to rule the world relying on weapons and threats, while others live in perpetual insecurity and danger," Ahmadinejad said.

The United States has been pushing for sanctions on Iran to punish it for missing a U.N. deadline to suspend controversial nuclear activities. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is discussing the possibility with her European, Russian and Chinese counterparts. But French President Jacques Chirac has made it clear that he doesn't favor a rush to sanctions.

There was one issue that this morning speaker's seem to agree on: the need to send U.N. troops to stop what President Bush has called genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed frustration at the inability of the international community to resolve the crisis or even persuade Sudan to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force.

"The continued spectacle of men, women and children driven from their homes by murder, rape and the burning of their villages makes a mockery of our claim," Annan said, "as an international community, to shield people from the worst abuses."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.