Iran's Leader Raps Europeans Over Nuke Talks
Nasser Karimi, The Guardian UK:
Iran's hard-line president scolded Europeans on Sunday, accusing them of being willing to sell their goods to Iranians while at the same time trying to strangle Tehran's nuclear program. READ MORE
Some legislators, meanwhile, criticized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Cabinet nominees, with one lawmaker asserting that the new president's proposed government had autocratic leanings.
In a speech to parliament, Ahmadinejad did not name any European country but was clearly alluding to Britain, France and Germany - Iran's largest European trading partners. They referred Iran to the U.N. nuclear watchdog this month after Tehran announced it was resuming uranium processing.
The trio had been negotiating with Iran on behalf of the European Union and the United States in an effort to persuade Tehran to shutter its program for uranium conversion. That is a precursor step to enrichment, which produces material suitable for both reactor fuel and weapons use.
The United States and others suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear arms in violation of its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Iran denies that, saying its nuclear program is intended only to generate electricity. But some European countries have been leery of Tehran since it was learned that the Iranians had for years concealed parts of their nuclear program from U.N. inspectors.
Ahmadinejad said Europeans should be thankful Iranians imports their products, but instead they ``apply hostile policies against Iran and do not recognize our legitimate rights'' - a reference to Iran's right to a peaceful atomic program under the treaty.
``What kind of balance is this? This is cruel and unfair. Our nation will not tolerate such behavior on the international scene,'' he said.
Ahmadinejad said he wants friendly ties with Iran's trading partners, but he warned that economic links are inseparable from political relations, including support for Iran's nuclear development.
The three European powers offered trade, political and security cooperation in their effort to persuade Iran to abandon the enrichment of uranium and instead import fuel for its nuclear program. Iran rejected that idea, saying it must be self-sufficient and able to produce reactor fuel.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has urged Iran to change its mind on restarting uranium conversion. A refusal could lead the Vienna, Austria-based agency to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council for consideration of economic sanctions.
As parliament began debating Ahmadinejad's proposed Cabinet, conservative lawmaker Emad Afrough lambasted the nominee for interior minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, describing the former intelligence official as a leading religious hard-liner.
``Choosing someone with an intelligence and security background was not an appropriate choice,'' Afrough said.
The new government showed ``radical autocratic tendencies,'' he added.
Earlier, Ahmadinejad told the assembly that Pourmohammadi would be an open-minded minister with a valuable background in security.
``There is no chance the Islamic establishment will go back to autocracy because of the awareness of the people, the parliament and the supreme leader,'' Ahmadinejad said.
Some other conservatives criticized the proposed Cabinet for not having any members known to average Iranians.
Lawmaker Ahmad Mahdavi countered by saying Ahmadinejad's Cabinet was at least an organized group. An ``organized starless team'' is better than a disorganized team with star players, he said.
While the hard-line dominated parliament is expected to approve the Cabinet list, the criticism showed divisions within the conservative camp. Some legislators who backed Ahmadinejad in the June elections clearly thought he had not chosen the best team to govern.
All but one of the nominees are hard-liners. Three are former members of the Revolutionary Guards, an elite unit in which Ahmadinejad served as a commander.
The debate on the Cabinet nominees was expected to last until Thursday.