TEHRAN - Iran will defend its rights and has enough cash to survive Western economic sanctions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday, ahead of crucial talks with world powers over its disputed nuclear drive.

“Whoever wants to violate the rights of the Iranian nation will be dealt a blow to the mouth so bad they will forget the path to their homes,” he said to the cheers of thousands in the southern province of Hormuzgan in a televised speech.

Iran is to meet the P5+1 group - the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany - in Istanbul on Saturday. Discussions are expected to focus on Tehran’s nuclear programme and severe Western sanctions which are to be toughened by an EU oil embargo coming into force in July.

Ahmadinejad said Iran would overcome the obstacles the West has put in its way and had an economy able to withstand the sanctions. “We have enough foreign currency so that, even if one barrel of oil is not sold for two or even three years, the country will be managed well and the enemies will not see their wishes (come true),” he added.

The US and its allies fear Iran’s programme mask a drive towards atomic weapons capability, despite strenuous denials from Tehran. The White House said Monday Iran needs to take “concrete steps” to assure the world it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

“We need concrete steps taken by the Iranians to assure that they will forsake their nuclear weapons ambitions,” said Jay Carney, spokesman for US President Barack Obama.

The US and Israel have threatened to resort to a military option if diplomacy on the issue fails. Obama has warned the window of diplomacy is closing.

Iran on Monday said that, if the Istanbul talks this week prove fruitful, another round of talks could be held in Baghdad.

The two sides last held talks in Istanbul in January 2011, with no results.

On Sunday Tehran rejected demands the West is reportedly to submit at the talks that it closes its Fordo nuclear enrichment bunker and give up higher-level uranium enrichment.

Those two demands, outlined by European and US diplomats to The New York Times newspaper, were “irrational,” said the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Fereydoon Abbasi Davani.