Archive for Sunday, May 14, 2006

Iran’s president vows to hold nuclear talks on his own terms

May 14, 2006


— 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 heads."

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.

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 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 for generating electricity and accuses the West of 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.

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.

Fears that Iran is trying to build nuclear warheads were aggravated Friday.

Diplomats said U.N. inspectors may have found traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment from an Iranian research center linked to the military.

But later a well-placed diplomat accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency said the density of enrichment was below the level used to make nuclear warheads.

However, it was heading toward weapons-grade level.

"I have not heard that," Ahmadinejad said when asked about the claims, adding, "The nuclear program of Iran is totally peaceful."

He said his country has worked closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

He also said 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.


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