Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Iranian FM: 'There is No Such Country' as Israel

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, declaring that the United States was too tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan to be able to mount an attack on Iran, said Tuesday that "there is no such country" as Israel.

The comments were made at a ministerial meeting of the Nonaligned Movement held in the city of Putrajaya. The group appears set to support Tehran's right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Asked to comment on Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's call for imposing economic sanctions on Iran, Mottaki replied sarcastically: "What country is that? There is no such country." Iran refuses to recognize Israel. READ MORE

The Iranian foreign minister also accused Washington of following "a double standard policy" over the nuclear issue, and engaging in "a unilateral approach that is not acceptable."

He said Iran was not afraid of a U.S. military attack on his country. "They can't. The United States is not in a position to impose another crisis on taxpayers," he said.

"They are in a lot of difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are not in a position to create a new crisis in the region," he added.

Mottaki made the comments as NAM, a 114-nation group of mostly developing
countries, was set to issue a statement on the Iranian nuclear crisis,
reaffirming the "basic and inalienable right" of all countries to develop, research, produce and use atomic energy for peaceful purposes, as long as they conform to their legal obligations.

The statement made no mention of accusations by the U.S. and some of its allies that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied this, claiming its nuclear program is merely to generate electricity.

Iran has also said it will not give up its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel as allowed by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory.

In a bid to avert the crisis over the issue, the five Security Council members and Germany are in the process of formulating a package of rewards to give Iran if it gives up uranium enrichment, or punish it with sanctions if it does not.

Mottaki reiterated that for Iran to accept the package, the international
community must fulfill two preconditions: recognition of its essential right to have nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and the strengthening of the NPT.

"Under such circumstances we are in a position to cooperate. Otherwise if they ignore the right of Iran to have nuclear technology, how can we accept?"