The United States fears Iran's growing military power because it is now able to compete with Israel and the West, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in comments carried by an Egyptian newspaper on Monday.
Responding to a toughening stance from the United States and Israel against Tehran, Ahmadinejad accused Washington of inventing conspiracies to discredit Iran and sowing discord with its near neighbor Saudi Arabia.
"Yes, we have military capabilities that are different from any other country in the region," Egyptian daily al-Akhbar cited Ahmadinejad as saying. "Iran is increasing in capability and advancement and therefore we are able to compete with Israel and the West and especially the United States."
"The US fears Iran's capability," he told the paper. "Iran will not permit (anyone from making) a move against it."
Iran's rulers deny accusations that they are seeking nuclear weapons and have warned they will respond to any attacks by striking at Israel and US interests in the Gulf.
The UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is expected this week to issue its most detailed report yet on research in Iran seen as geared to developing atomic bombs.
Some of the report's findings, leaked to US daily The Washington Post, show that Iran has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, the paper reported on Sunday.
The report will provide details on an apparent secret research program that was more ambitious, more organized and more successful than commonly suspected, The Washington Post said.
Tehran denies wanting atom bombs, saying it is enriching uranium only to power reactors for electricity generation.
"It is Israel that has about 300 nuclear warheads. Iran is only keen to have nuclear capability for peaceful means," Ahmadinejad said, accusing Washington of lumping Iran with Syria, the Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The US portrays those four as "the Axis of Evil to save the Zionist entity (Israel). But the Zionists are bound to go out of existence," he said.
Responding to a US claim that Iran was involved in a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Ahmadinejad said: "Iran is farthest from thinking of carrying out such crimes but the US is always inventing conspiracies against Iran."
"The US fears any friendship between us and Saudi Arabia and therefore incites disagreements," he said. "To stop the US in its tracks we must deepen the elements of friendship... We are ready for this and the relation between Saudi and Iran already exists and has not been cut off."