President rules out UN debate with Iran

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The Independent Online

The White House has ruled out a "steel-cage grudge match" between President George Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the Iranian President challenged him to a debate at the UN General Assembly.

Both leaders are to speak on 19 September, when the 192-nation assembly convenes in New York for its annual ministerial session.

President Ahmadinejad has renewed his offer of a televised debate with the American President, saying the UN would be the perfect location for an uncensored discussion which the world could watch.

But a White House spokesman, Tony Snow, said: "There's not going to be a steel-cage grudge match between the President and Ahmadinejad."

Mr Ahmadinejad, who has been outspoken in defending Iran's right to enrich uranium in defiance of UN demands, was described as a "street-fighter" in a meeting with the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, in Tehran this week.

Diplomats from six major powers met in Berlin yesterday to discuss how the security council should respond to Iran's failure to meet a UN deadline for a freeze on uranium enrichment. The process can lead to production of nuclear weapons, but Iran says its intentions are peaceful.