Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ahmadinejad Signals Hardening of Nuclear Stance

Hiedeh Farmani, Yahoo News:
Iran's president signaled that Israeli attacks against the Palestinian territories and Lebanon were causing Iran to harden its stance in the international row over its nuclear programme.

"We are examining the package, considering our interests and definitive legitimate rights and will announce our views at the appointed date," Mahoud Ahmadinejad said of an international offer of incentives in exchange for a halt to sensitive atomic work.

"But the incidents in Lebanon and Palestine have influenced our examination," said the president, whose country is a major supporter of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement as well as the Palestinian militant group Hamas. READ MORE

Ahmadinejad also asserted that "the government is determined to fully exploit the rights of the Iranian nation," signalling Tehran's continued unwillingness to freeze its controversial uranium enrichment programme.

Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to the levels needed for reactor fuel and that this is a right enshrined by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Nuclear energy is clean and renewable, and all nations have the right to use it," said Ahmadinejad, who was speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Enrichment can also be extended to make weapons, and lingering questions over the nature of Iran's work has prompted a series of demands for a moratorium.

Iran had also threatened Sunday to bin the international proposal -- which was drawn up by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany -- if the UN Security Council passes a draft resolution demanding that Tehran freeze enrichment by the end of August.

Iran had said it will take until August 22 to reply the offer that was handed to Tehran on June 6, prompting the Security Council to reinforce demands for an enrichment freeze.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Tehran could "revise" its policies, implicitly warning that future access for UN inspectors could end. He also said the proposed UN resolution would "worsen the crisis in the region".

"By putting pressure and trying to intimidate Iran, no country will achieve anything. On the contrary, the situation will worsen," Asefi said.

"If tomorrow they pass a resolution against Iran, the package will not be on the agenda any more," he said of the proposal, which offers Iran the prospect of multilateral talks on trade, diplomatic and technology incentives if it complies.

"Issuing this resolution will worsen the crisis in the region."

When asked to elaborate on what specific measures Iran might take, Asefi replied: "They know what I am talking about."

Iranian leaders have already warned they could halt cooperation with inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and even quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

They have also played up Iran's regional clout and oil wealth.

A text of the proposed UN resolution was distributed to the 15 council nations on Friday, and US ambassador John Bolton told reporters that a vote could be held early in the week.

If Iran continues enriching uranium, "the next step will be the consideration of sanctions in the Security Council, and it would be our intention to move forcefully to get those sanctions adopted," Bolton said.

The first stage would be political and economic sanctions, diplomats stressed, pointing to a vote within a few days.

"My hope is that we will be able to adopt it by Monday," said French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, whose country holds the rotating council presidency for July.

The United States and its allies believe that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, and US President George W. Bush said Friday Tehran "will not be allowed" to achieve its wish.

Russia and China have led opposition to any mention of sanctions in the UN resolution.

Moscow's ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, stressed the new resolution would not threaten sanctions and that it was "an invitation to dialogue" with Iran.