Reporting from New York — Iran's president predicted Tuesday that a proposed new round of econmic sanctions aimed at his country would "backfire" and hurt the United States, while having little effect on the Persian Gulf nation.
In a world of free trade, such sanctions are a "broken deal" that will harm only the economies of those who break off ties with a target nation, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.
"While we don't welcome sanctions, we do not fear them either," Ahmadinejad said, speaking to reporters at a U.N. conference.
During 31 years of international sanctions, Ahmadinejad said, Iran has shown that "it is able to withstand all the pressure brought by the United States and allies, and has been able to turn that to its advantage."
The Iranian leader is visiting New York this week to enlist support against threatened U.N. Security Council sanctions as he attends a conference on the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1970, the international agreement governing the spread of nuclear weapons.
After denouncing the United States and its allies on Monday in an address at the United Nations, he repeated the same themes in a wide-ranging news conference at a New York hotel. He took a friendly tone with the foreign reporters but a tough one toward Americans. He avoided directly answering many questions, while often giving lengthy responses.
He gave the Obama administration little credit for its disclosure Monday that its nuclear arsenal consists of 5,113 active and inactive warheads.
Although the disclosure is "a step forward," Ahmadinejad said, "it's no pride to possess 5,000 bombs."
He noted again, as he did Monday, that it was the United States that dropped the world's first two nuclear weapons.
Ahmadinejad complained several times that President Obama had come to office with a "motto of change," but that his administration was being pushed by a "group of radicals" to a confrontation with Iran. He didn't identify the group. Obama began his presidency with an offer to hold talks with Iran but turned to proposed sanctions after Tehran rebuffed U.S.-led proposals concerning its nuclear development program. Western nations believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weaponry while Tehran insists it is meant for civilian energy purposes only.
The Iranian president said that if the United States pushes forward with sanctions, it would end any hope for improving relations with Iran.
"Paths to that will be shot," he said, and relations will be as bad as they were during the George W. Bush administration. He added, "We're not concerned about a military invasion."
Ahmadinejad assailed U.S. support for Israel, saying it had turned out to be a "strategic blunder." Although the West initially supported Israel in hopes of promoting its interests in the region, the Jewish state has become a burden, he said.
"The Zionist regime is a broken car that needs more money" to keep running, he said.
Ahmadinejad was accompanied by his foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, as well as his chief of staff and the ambassador to Iran's U.N. mission. The Iranian leader sat in front of an Iranian flag.
He took issue with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for denouncing his claims as "tired, false and sometimes wild" during her U.N. address Monday.
"She should have said which of my statements were untrue," he said.