Iran offers to allow foreign countries and companies to take part in uranium enrichment
UNITED NATIONS – Iran’s president proclaimed his country’s “inalienable right” to nuclear energy Saturday and offered foreign countries and companies a role in his nation’s uranium enrichment program to prove Tehran is not producing atomic weapons.He said Iran continues to abide by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and accused some “powerful states” – an apparent reference to the United States and some Europeans – of engaging in “nuclear apartheid” by discriminating against access by nonproliferation treaty members to material, equipment and peaceful nuclear technology.Ahmadinejad said Iran’s religious principles prohibit the country from obtaining nuclear weapons. He implicitly accused the Europeans and Americans of misrepresenting Iran’s desire for civilian nuclear energy “as the pursuit of nuclear weapons.””This is nothing more than a pure propaganda ploy,” he said.France’s Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy welcomed Ahmadinejad’s rejection of nuclear weapons and adherence to the nonproliferation but reiterated that Tehran should not have a nuclear fuel cycle.”We don’t see what the involvement of third countries will contribute to establish confidence,” he said.A senior State Department official called it “a very aggressive speech” that appeared to go beyond European “red lines,” referring to limits called for by European negotiators in nuclear talks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of topic.Ahmadinejad rejected European and American claims that Iran doesn’t need to enrich uranium because it can obtain it from other countries. He insisted that Iran would not be dependent on anyone else for its energy needs, and said “the peaceful use of nuclear energy without a fuel cycle is an empty proposition.”The United States and the Europeans have threatened to refer the Tehran nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions, if it doesn’t stop enriching uranium.Washington has led efforts to line up support at Monday’s board meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, for a referral to the council. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice suggested earlier this week that Washington might accept a delay.Taking direct aim at the United States, Ahmadinejad accused “those who have actually used nuclear weapons, continue to produce, stockpile and extensively test such weapons” of using uranium-depleted munitions and arming Israel with weapons of mass destruction.Instead of occupying itself with Iran, he said, a new General Assembly committee should investigate how Israel acquired weapons of mass destruction and propose measures to achieve total disarmament and a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.To reassure the international community of Iran’s peaceful intentions, Ahmadinejad said his government is prepared to take “far-reaching” steps beyond the requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to ease other nations’ fears of its intentions.The IAEA has already installed cameras to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities, he said.As a further “confidence building measure and in order to provide the greatest degree of transparency the Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to engage in serious partnership with private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of uranium enrichment programs in Iran,” he said.”We will work with public and private companies in the context of Iranian and agency laws,” Ahmadinejad told a news conference afterward.He noted afterwards that U.S. President George W. Bush said recently he approves of Iran having a peaceful nuclear program.”This is a step forward,” he said, “but this means that others are to produce the fuel and sell it to us to use and for us to be always dependent on others – this is outside the NPT and this is not acceptable to my nation.”Momentum for Security Council action grew after Tehran last month rejected incentives offered by Britain, France and Germany – negotiating on behalf of the EU – and resumed uranium conversion. The Europeans say Tehran broke its word by unilaterally restarting that activity while still discussing ways to reduce international suspicions about its nuclear agenda.Ahmadinejad said Iran has made clear its peaceful intentions and is cooperating with the IAEA.”So when they threaten us this means they have no rationale, no logic or backup and we are not going to cave in to the excessive demands of certain powers,” he told reporters.”We believe we should not give up to bullying in international relations,” the Iranian leader said.