UNITED NATIONS Iran's president blamed U.S. military interventions around the world in part for the collapse of global financial markets and said the campaign against his country's nuclear program was solely due to the Bush administration "and a couple of their European friends."
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's interviews, ahead of his speech to the United Nations on Tuesday, came after the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned that he could not determine whether Iran is hiding some nuclear activities.
Last year, thousands rallied at the United Nations to protest Ahmadinejad's speech. When Ahmadinejad was ushered to the podium of the General Assembly to speak, the U.S. delegation walked out, leaving only a low-ranking note-taker to listen to his speech.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Ahmadinejad said the collapse of global financial markets was due in large part to U.S. military interventions abroad.
"Problems do not arise suddenly," he said. "The U.S. government has made a series of mistakes in the past few decades. The imposition on the U.S. economy of the years of heavy military engagement and involvement around the world ... the war in Iraq, for example. These are heavy costs imposed on the U.S. economy.
"The world economy can no longer tolerate the budgetary deficit and the financial pressures occurring from markets here in the United States, and by the U.S. government," he added.
In a separate interview with National Public Radio, Ahmadinejad said he does not want confrontation with the United States. He said he wants diplomatic relations to develop between the two countries and was willing, for example, to cooperate on upholding security in Iraq.
"We do not have confrontations with anyone," he said. "The U.S. administration interferes, and we defend ourselves."
Despite U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad claimed vast international support for his position and said the campaign consisted "of only three or four countries, led by the United States and with a couple of their European friends."
Iran insists its nuclear activities are geared only toward generating power. But Israel says the Islamic Republic could have enough nuclear material to make its first bomb within a year. The U.S. estimates Tehran is at least two years away from that stage.
Ahmadinejad's speech will come just hours after President Bush made his final address to the General Assembly.
In his speech, Bush said he realizes that other nations are watching how the United States deals with the financial meltdown that is shaking the global economy. He said that his administration is working with Congress to come to fast agreement on a $700 billion bailout bill, in addition to other recent actions he called "bold steps" aimed at stabilizing markets and keeping credit flowing.
Bush said he is confident that the U.S. will act "in the urgent timeframe required" to prevent broader problems. He did not ask for any action by other countries.
The U.S. president also met on the sidelines of the General Assembly with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistan is under growing pressure from the United States to act against al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents along its border with Afghanistan, a staging ground for attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan and bombings in Pakistan. Pakistan accuses the U.S. of violating its sovereignty.
Also Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for global leadership to restore order to international financial markets, make trade concessions and act on climate change.
Addressing more than 120 world leaders and dozens of ministers, Ban painted a grim picture of a world facing not only a financial crisis but food and energy crises as well as new outbreaks of war and violence and "new rhetoric of confrontation."
"We must do more to help our fellow human beings weather the gathering storm," he said. "I see a danger of nations looking more inward, rather than toward a shared future. I see a danger of retreating from the progress we have made, particularly in the realm of development and more equitably sharing the fruits of global growth."
Turning to the U.S. financial meltdown which has spread around the world, the secretary-general said "the global financial crisis endangers all our work financing for development, social spending in rich nations and poor, the Millennium Development Goals" to improve life for the poorest.
"We need to restore order to the international financial markets," he said. "We need a new understanding on business ethics and governance, with more compassion and less uncritical faith in the 'magic' of markets. And we must think about how the world economic system should evolve to more fully reflect changing realities of our time."