Saturday, September 17, 2005

Iran Resolved to Pursue Nuclear Program

Iran's president, at the center of an international nuclear showdown, told CNN Saturday his country is absolutely "determined" to pursue a nuclear energy program and will "use every resource" it has to battle the United States and European nations trying to prevent it.

"We are determined. Certainly we are determined. Why should other people have it and sell it to us?" said Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an exclusive interview -- his first since the hard-line conservative won the presidential election.

Speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Ahmadinejad lashed out against "nuclear apartheid" and suggested his nation may consider taking action to hike oil prices in order to scare off further action from the United States and parts of Europe.

Asked about remarks by some Iranian officials that Iran may provoke a rise in oil prices, he responded, "I think any intelligent, healthy, smart human being should use every resource in order to maintain his or her freedom and independence."

He added, "I doubt that the leaders of the United States and Europe are that far removed from reality." He said his nation has the "legal right" to pursue a nuclear energy program, and "I think they're smarter than denying us this legal right. It is natural, of course, they will use whatever they have in their hand, which is the U.N. Security Council, and our nation has the means to defend and obtain its own rights."

The interview preceded a speech planned for later in the day at the U.N. General Assembly, when the controversial figure was set to respond to calls by the United States and Britain to turn over the conflict with Iran to the Security Council.

The United States has long argued that Iran is trying to build a covert nuclear weapons program -- a charge Iran, and Ahmadinejad specifically, denies.

Iranian leader's proposals

Ahmadinejad told CNN he would use his U.N. speech to outline proposals aimed at defusing the crisis.

Among the proposals is the creation of a special U.N. committee "that controls the proliferation of nuclear weaponry in the countries who have the means to carry such weaponry," he said.

He said he will also stress "the acceptance of all the points and agreements of the International Atomic Energy Agency." That agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has criticized Iran for not providing enough information or providing access to all the nuclear sites as requested, but has not bolstered the U.S. argument that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad, who lambasted the United States and its European supporters during his campaign for election and sine, told CNN, "their intentions are bad intentions, their intentions towards us are bad."

Iran's reaction to talks

The so-called "EU-3" -- Britain, France, and Germany -- had led negotiations with Iran to reach an end to the standoff. The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, which President Bush once branded part of an "axis of evil."

But Iran walked away from those talks, saying the offers -- which included support for other types of energy programs -- were unacceptable.

Ahmadinejad does not have final word in government matters in the Islamic theocratic state. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has that power. But Ahmadinejad has taken a leading public role, and represents his nation at the General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad has faced accusations from some former U.S. hostages that he was an interrogator during the hostage crisis in 1979. He has denied it, and U.S. government investigations have found no support for those assertions. READ MORE

In the CNN interview, he again denied any involvement.