Monday, April 24, 2006

Iran's Ahmadinejad Rejects UN Deadline on Uranium Enrichment

Marc Wolfensberger, Bloomberg:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected a United Nations deadline to suspend Iran's nuclear program, threatening to quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty if the UN doesn't recognize Iran's right to nuclear technology. READ MORE

Ahmadinejad also said Israeli Jews should go back to the European countries from which they came, as the exodus was created by World War II belligerent nations, not by the Palestinians.

``Why should we suspend our nuclear program? Those who are saying we should suspend should give us a rational answer,'' Ahmadinejad told foreign and Iranian reporters at a press conference in Tehran today. Iran, which is ``unwavering'' on its nuclear program, will ``reconsider'' its position vis-a-vis the nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty if the UN nuclear watchdog doesn't respect Iran's ``rights.''

Ahmadinejad earlier this month announced his country had enriched uranium to 3.5 percent, enough to produce nuclear- reactor fuel. Iran is ``some years away'' from developing a nuclear bomb, Thomas Fingar, deputy U.S. director of national intelligence, said on April 13.

The Iranian president said today that Iran doesn't plan to enrich uranium beyond 5 percent. That is enough to fuel a nuclear reactor, though far short of the 90 percent needed for a weapon.

Iran, a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has voluntarily abided by an additional protocol that gives the International Atomic Energy Agency more inspection powers over nuclear installations, including the right to conduct spot checks. The protocol is not binding on Iran because it was never ratified by the country's parliament.

Inspections Curbed

Iran has already stopped allowing the UN nuclear watchdog to ``use the advanced inspection methods in the Additional Protocol,'' the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security said in an April 14 report.

The UN Security Council demanded the suspension of Iran's nuclear program by April 28. The Security Council hasn't outlined any consequences for ignoring the deadline though the U.S. wants a binding resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN charter if Iran fails to suspend its enrichment activities. Chapter 7 provides for the ``interruption of economic relations,'' the ``severance of diplomatic relations'' and the ``use of armed force.''

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that the Security Council is ``not considering at this point in time the military option.'' A resolution on UN action should be ready soon, probably next month, he said.

Solution Possible

``There can still be solutions so long as the international community has confidence that Iran's nuclear program is strictly limited to peaceful ends,'' Solana said in an interview in Tokyo today. ``We can't take the risk of there being one more country in an area as unstable as the Middle East where there are more nuclear weapons.''

The Iranian president said he believed economic sanctions are ``highly unlikely,'' adding ``foreign powers are rational enough not to make such a great mistake.''

Iran's nuclear program is the ``most transparent'' in the world and ``fully peaceful,'' the president added. Iran has ``no need to cover up'' its nuclear activities, he said. The U.S. and the European Union consider Iran's nuclear program a front for the development of nuclear weapons while Iran maintains the program is intended only for the production of electricity.

Iran ``didn't borrow the technology, it's a home-grown technology and we are going to defend it,'' Ahmadinejad said during his 90-minute press conference.

He said Iran's policies wouldn't change even if he were killed.


``If they believe that, if they assassinate me, that will be the end of the story, they are dead wrong,'' Ahmadinejad said. ``There are 70 million people like me in this country who have the same views.'' He didn't say who might want to kill him.

Mounting tensions over the Islamic nation's nuclear research helped push oil in New York last week to above $75 a barrel. Iran, the world's second-largest holder of oil and gas reserves, wants a ``fair price'' for oil on international markets, Ahmadinejad said today, without elaborating.

On the Palestinians, Ahmadinejad's statement contrasted with tougher ones he made in October, when he said Nazi Germany's Holocaust of World War II, in which millions of Jews were killed, was a ``myth.''

``You made Europe unsafe for Jews,'' he said today. ``Allow them to go back to their own fatherlands,'' he said, according to a translation carried live by Bloomberg Television.

``You have created a problem which you should solve yourself.'' He said the creation of Israel had resulted in the persecution of the Palestinian people.

To contact the reporters on this story: Marc Wolfensberger in Tehran at