UNITED NATIONS In a throw-back to Cold War disputes, leftist Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega launched a blistering attack on U.S. global "tyranny" on Tuesday and defended Iran's right to pursue a nuclear program.
In his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly for 18 years, Ortega said U.S. leaders continued to dictate what was right or wrong "as if they were God", while poor countries were still afflicted by "oppression and violence and terror".
"Today we are more threatened than we were 18 years ago," said Ortega, who spoke about two hours after U.S. President George W. Bush, in his speech to the Assembly, criticized a lack of human rights in Iran, North Korea, Cuba and other states.
Referring to the United States, Ortega said that what was called "the most exemplary democracy in the world" was "really a tyranny. It's the most impressive, huge dictatorship that has existed -- the empire of North America."
Ortega, leader of the radical Sandinista Party, ruled his central American nation in the 1980s when his government fought U.S.-backed Contra rebels. The Sandinistas were voted out of office in 1990 but he returned to power in January.
In a speech that appeared largely improvised, Ortega said the United States dictated the world economic order and was guilty of hypocrisy in trying to deny developing countries the right to nuclear power.
"With what authority does he (Bush) question the right of Iran and the right of North Korea ... to nuclear development for peaceful purposes?" he asked.
"And even if they wanted nuclear power for military purposes, with what right can we question this? The U.S. is the only country in the world to have launched nuclear bombs on innocent people -- Hiroshima and Nagasaki," Japanese cities bombed in 1945.
Iran says its nuclear program is only to generate nuclear power, but Washington and other Western capitals fear it is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
Under Ortega, Nicaragua has cultivated ties with Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an arch-foe of Washington, visited Managua in January. Ortega went to Iran in June.
Last month, oil-rich Iran promised to help fund a new $350 million ocean port and build 10,000 houses for the cash-strapped Nicaraguan government.
In his speech on Tuesday, Ortega said the General Assembly reflected a world where "a capitalist and imperialist minority is imposing global capitalism to impoverish the world, continue to enslave us all and promote apartheid against Latin American immigrants and against African immigrants in Europe".