TEHRAN (AP) â€” Iran’s president stood fast Saturday behind his decision to conduct uranium enrichment research, shrugging off threats of international sanctions, while his foreign ministry invited Europe and the UN nuclear watchdog back to the negotiating table.
In a ringing defence of Iran’s resumption Tuesday of research at its nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran had not violated the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which he said allows signatories to produce nuclear fuel.
The move drew fierce international condemnation and threats to seek UN sanctions, but Ahmadinejad was unmoved.
“The time of using language of bullying and coercion… is over,” he said.
“There is no evidence to prove Iran’s diversion [towards nuclear weapons],” Ahmadinejad told a packed news conference in the capital.
What’s more, Ahmadinejad said, Iran had no use for nuclear weapons.
“Our nation doesn’t need nuclear weapons. You can use nuclear technology in several ways, and we want to do so peacefully,” he said, claiming that such weaponry violated the tenets of Islam.
The Iranian foreign ministry, meanwhile, in an apparent attempt to contain rising tensions, issued a call for a resumption of talks with the European Union, which has been represented in past negotiations by Britain, France and Germany.
Furthermore, state television quoted a ministry statement as saying “Iran is ready to cooperate with the IAEA to clear ambiguities if any.” Ahmadinejad’s news conference was the second day of a tough public relations offensive by Tehran. On Friday, it threatened to end surprise inspections by and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, if the country were referred to the Security Council for possible imposition of sanctions.
Iran insists its programme is intended only for electricity generation. The United States and others fear Iran is using it as a cover to build a nuclear bomb.
Europe and the United States have been trying to build support for the move, saying more than two years of acrimonious negotiations had reached a dead end when Iran resumed work at the enrichment facility.
But they face resistance from China, which warned the move could only escalate the confrontation. China is highly dependent on Iran for oil. Russia, which also holds a veto on the Security Council, is a question mark as well. It is deeply involved in building Iranian reactors for power generation and has in the past indicated it would not support sanctions.
“The world public opinion knows that Iran has not violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Ahmadinejad said.
“There are no restrictions for nuclear research activities under the NPT protocol, and Iran has not accepted any obligation [not to carry out research]. How is it possible to prevent the scientific development of a nation?” Ahmadinejad said there was no reason Iran should not develop its nuclear technology and charged that the threats of sanctions and Security Council action were the true dangers to world stability, not Iran’s nuclear programme.
“Why are you employing the Security Council? Doesn’t that endanger world security? ” the Iranian president asked.
“We don’t trust their [Western countries] sincerity at all. It’s certain for us that they don’t want the Iranian nation to achieve scientific progress. They openly say ‘we are opposed to [Iran’s nuclear] research.’ On what basis do you say this? isn’t this a medieval mentality?” he asked in an apparent reference to critics of Iran’s ruling Islamic theocracy.
“I’m recommending these countries not isolate themselves more among the people of the world. Resorting to the language of coercion is over.” Ahmadinejad said Iran was the victim of “propaganda” and that the presence of IAEA surveillance equipment was proof Iran had nothing to hide.
He said Iran had spent 21?2 years trying to win the trust of the international community, citing its agreement to seal some research sites, to allow snap IAEA inspections and to impose a moratorium on uranium enrichment.