Reza Pahlavi Says Tehran Needs Confrontation in Order to Survive
Iran will not retreat one iota on its uranium enrichment, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday, signaling there would be no concessions in talks with the head of the U.N. nuclear agency who arrived to head off a confrontation with the Security Council.
"We have not seen diversion of nuclear material for weapons purposes, but the picture is still hazy and not very clear," the U.N. nuclear chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, told reporters after talks with Iran's nuclear officials.
ElBaradei said he had discussed with the Iranians the U.N. request for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment for a period of time until questions over its nuclear program had been resolved.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, told the same press conference that such moves were not acceptable. "Such proposals are not very important ones," he said.
Hours earlier, Ahmadinejad had said enrichment was an Iranian red line in the talks with the United Nations.
"We won't hold talks with anyone about the right of the Iranian nation (to enrich uranium) and no one has the right to retreat, even one iota," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying Thursday by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Ahmadinejad is playing to the home audience, says Reza Pahlavi, son of the deposed Shah of Iran.
"The regime is desperate in terms of internal pressure. It needs to divert ... people's attention away from their daily problems and on something else," Pahlavi said. "This regime is not trying to avoid confrontation, on the contrary, it needs confrontation in order to survive." READ MORE
Enriched uranium is used for fuel in power-generating reactors and warheads of nuclear weapons. But Western diplomats and experts familiar with Iran's program say Iran still is far from producing any weapons-grade uranium.
"Our answer to those who are angry about Iran achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle is just one phrase. We say: 'Be angry at us and die of this anger,'" Ahmadinejad said.
The Security Council has given Iran until April 28 to cease enrichment of uranium. But Iran has rejected the demand and announced Tuesday that, for the first time, it had enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges — a step toward large-scale production.
Representatives of the "big five" on the Security Council discussed Iran's latest development on Thursday morning.
"We want to see what the outcome of the discussions between ElBaradei and the Iranian government is, and when we get information on that, we'll consider what to do next," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said after the meeting.
China said Thursday it was sending its assistant foreign minister to Tehran to convey its concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
On Tuesday, reports CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar, jubilant Iranian scientists paraded what they said was evidence they had crossed a major technical hurdle, enriching uranium to a level suitable for power production.
"The regime's announcement the other day is only another signal of their defiance of the international community and it only further isolates the regime from the rest of the world," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan on Thursday.
Iran's deputy nuclear chief, Mohammad Saeedi, said Wednesday that Iran intends to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment involving 3,000 centrifuges by late 2006, and then expand the program to 54,000 centrifuges.
Saeedi said the 54,000 centrifuges would produce enough enriched uranium to fuel a 1,000-megawatt reactor, such as the one Iran has built with Russian assistance at Bushehr. The reactor is due to come on stream later this year.
Iran's nuclear chief, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said Wednesday that Iran is prepared to give the West a share of Iran's enrichment facilities to allay fears that the country may divert some product to build weapons.
"The best way to get out of this issue is for countries that have concern to become our partners in Natanz in management, production and technology," he said, referring to the site of Iran's enrichment plant.
"This is a very important confidence-building measure," he said.