Reuters: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday Iran was ready to talk with any country except Israel but not under threat of force. By Achmad Sukarsono and Jerry Norton
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday Iran was ready to talk with any country except Israel but not under threat of force.
The comment came as Iran’s foreign minister told European states not to repeat what he called the mistake of forcing an end to talks on Tehran’s nuclear program by demanding it stop uranium enrichment, the official news agency IRNA reported.
Ahmadinejad, in Nusa Dua on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali to attend the Developing Eight (D-8) summit, told reporters Iran was “ready to hold dialogue with all countries of the world except for the Israeli regime.”
But he added: “If they want to resort to the use of force we will not go into dialogue with them.”
The United States has said it would not rule out the use of force to stop what it considers to be an Iranian drive for nuclear weapons, but intends to solve its dispute by diplomacy.
Ahmadinejad also said Tehran would abide by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in cooperating with other countries.
On Monday, European ministers prepare to discuss a new proposal in Brussels to end the long-running standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.
The plan includes incentives for cooperation in ending uranium enrichment but also a threat of targeted sanctions if Tehran was seen as obstructionist.
The United States and western allies suspect Iran’s declared civilian nuclear energy program is a smokescreen for a nuclear weapons program.
Iran accuses the three main European negotiators — Britain, Germany and France — of unilaterally canceling a round of talks on Iran’s nuclear row in August 2005 shortly after Iran resumed its nuclear research and development activities.
“The European countries should not repeat the ‘August experience’,” IRNA quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying at the D-8 meeting.
Mottaki did not elaborate further, but said Iran would cooperate fully with European states if they accepted Iran’s right to have peaceful nuclear technology and enter a dialogue based on that.
The U.N. Security Council is considering a draft resolution by Britain and France and backed by the United States that demands Iran suspend uranium enrichment. But Russia and China oppose parts of the text.
State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez, reacting to Ahmadinejad’s comments in Indonesia, said Iran must suspend uranium enrichment, cooperate with the IAEA, and return to good-faith negotiations.
“By all appearances up to now they only seem to engage in delaying and stalling while going down the road of acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Ahmadinejad sent a letter earlier this month to President Bush which some interpreted as an overture to ease the nuclear dispute.
But he told reporters on Saturday the letter was not related to Iran’s nuclear program.
“This letter was meant to open a new horizon for the politicians in the world,” Ahmadinejad said after the summit of Muslim-majority nations.
Shortly before he spoke, the D-8 issued the summit’s closing declaration, which made no direct reference to Iran’s nuclear program or the dispute over it. The declaration did make a general endorsement of peaceful development of nuclear energy.
However, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose country took over the chairmanship of the group from Iran at the meeting, said he had told his Iranian counterpart directly “continued cooperation should be made between Iran and IAEA to have a peaceful, just solution” to the dispute.
(Additional reporting by Alireza Ronaghi in Tehran)