Iran’s president will not hold nuclear talks under the threat of force
BALI, Indonesia – Iran’s president, emboldened by the support of Muslim nations, said Saturday he was willing to hold talks over Tehran’s disputed nuclear agenda but not with Israel or countries that hold “bombs over our head.”President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he has cooperated fully with the U.N. nuclear agency and the world has nothing to fear from his program to enrich uranium, which can be used for generating electricity or in making atomic weapons.The hardline leader spoke after meeting with heads of state and prime ministers from Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey and Malaysia and government ministers from Egypt and Bangladesh.Though they were on the Indonesian resort island of Bali to discuss ways to boost economic and political cooperation, alleviate poverty and restructure debt, it was impossible to ignore Iran’s intensifying nuclear stalemate with the West.Washington and its allies fear Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons. But Ahmadinejad insists his nuclear program is only for generating electricity and accuses the West of greedily trying to monopolize nuclear technology.He received a boost Saturday from the eight Islamic leaders, who released a statement after their D-8 summit of developing nations supporting the rights of countries to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”Our people need to do more to help one another,” Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said, adding that “proud” Islamic countries should work together to develop renewable and alternative energy sources.Later, Indonesian Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said his country plans to build its first major nuclear power plant by 2015 and has been offered assistance by companies from South Korea, Japan, France and an unspecified fourth country.Much of Ahmadinejad’s work was done on the sidelines of the trade talks, meeting privately with Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Fears that Iran is trying to build nuclear warheads were aggravated Friday, when diplomats said U.N. inspectors may have found traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment from an Iranian research center linked to the military.The diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging the confidential information, initially said the density of enrichment appeared to be close to or above the level used to make nuclear warheads.But later a well-placed diplomat accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency said the level was below that, although higher than the low-enriched material used to generate power and heading toward weapons-grade level.”I have not heard that,” Ahmadinejad said when asked about the claims, saying the world had no reason “to become nervous … The nuclear program of Iran is totally peaceful.”He said he his country has worked closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.”The cameras are there, the facilities are there, closely monitoring our activities. Therefore there are no concerns.”He also said that while he was willing to talk to just about anyone about the dispute he would not do so with “countries that hang planes with bombs over our heads” – an apparent reference to the United States.”If they want to threaten the use of force we will not go into dialogue with them.”Washington has said it favors diplomacy in resolving the dispute with Iran but has left open the possibility of military strikes against Iran over its nuclear ambitions.The Bush administration had been pressing for U.N. Security Council action against Tehran but recently agreed to put such efforts on hold and give new European-led attempts to find a negotiated solution.Russia and China have balked at efforts to put a Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. Such a move would declare Iran a threat to international peace and security and set the stage for further measures if Tehran refuses to suspend uranium enrichment. Those measures could range from breaking diplomatic relations to economic sanctions and military action.Saturday’s summit came amid European moves to help Iran develop a civilian nuclear power program if the Islamic republic agrees to international controls to ensure it will not build an atomic arsenal.The Europeans are seeking to build on a package of economic and political incentives offered to Iran in August last year in return for a permanent end to uranium enrichment activities.Iran rejected that deal, but EU governments have continued to offer sweeteners to persuade Tehran to bring its nuclear program into line, as well as pushing at the United Nations for measures that could lead to sanctions if Iran refuses.Iran’s Foreign Minister said in Bali, however, that “no incentive can be interesting for the Iranian government and the Iranian nation unless it includes Iran’s right to benefit from nuclear technology.”
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