(photo credit: Associated Press)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that his country was not afraid of US military action over its uranium enrichment program, but added that he thought any such strikes were very unlikely.
The Iranian president made the remarks in a dialogue with Indonesian Islamic leaders.
Asked whether his country was prepared to face an attack by the United States, he said "that is very unlikely because they know the Islamic Republic of Iran is a strong country."
"They are waging a propaganda campaign with strong words so our country is afraid. The people of Iran and the country are not afraid of them," he said to applause from the audience.
The United States is leading an international campaign to get Iran to open its nuclear program to international inspections, saying it fears the Middle Eastern country is developing nuclear weapons - a charge Iran denies.
While Washington has said it favors a diplomatic end to the dispute, it hasn't ruled out military force and is behind a charge at the United Nations for economic sanctions to be brought down on Iran.
One member of the 30-strong audience urged Ahmadinejad to go ahead and develop nuclear weapons, saying the "enemies of Islam" also had them.
The Iranian leader did not reply directly, but quipped that "every young man in the Islamic world is an atomic bomb because they have faith, God and love the character of the Prophet Muhammad."
Ahmadinejad, known for his fiery rhetoric, has become a pariah in the West.
But he has received a warm welcome during his three-day visit to Indonesia, where his willingness to criticize the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - seen by many here as attacks on Islam - his outspoken criticism of Israel, and his refusal to stand down to international pressure on the nuclear dispute resonates with many of its young people.
Later Friday, he was scheduled to attend prayers at Jakarta's Grand Mosque, reputed to be Southeast Asia's largest, before flying to the resort island of Bali to take part in a development conference.
The nuclear issue has dominated his trip.
This week, key UN Security Council members agreed to postpone a resolution that would have delivered an ultimatum to Teheran, giving Iran another two weeks to reevaluate its insistence on developing its uranium enrichment capabilities.
If Teheran refuses to cooperate, it could set the stage for measures ranging from breaking diplomatic relations to economic sanctions and military action.
The Iranian leader brushed off the sanction threat, saying in an interview with Metro TV on Thursday that the West had more to lose than Teheran did if it was internationally isolated. Sanctions would serve only to "motivate" the country's nuclear scientists, he said.
Asked what it would take to begin talks with the United States to resolve the standoff, Ahmadinejad told the station Iran was "ready to engage in dialogue with anybody."
"But if someone points a weapon at your face and says you must speak, will you do that?"
On Thursday, he told around 1,000 cheering students that every country should have the right to new technology to meet energy needs.
"If nuclear technology is such a bad thing, why do you [Western countries] have it?" Ahmadinejad said.
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