AFP: A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted Thursday that Iran will not back down “an inch” over its nuclear programme despite the growing threat of sanctions, and fired off another verbal attack on Israel, calling it a fraudulent regime that cannot survive. by Aresu Eqbali
TEHRAN, Oct 19, 2006 (AFP) – A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted Thursday that Iran will not back down “an inch” over its nuclear programme despite the growing threat of sanctions, and fired off another verbal attack on Israel, calling it a fraudulent regime that cannot survive.
“The world must know that the Iranian people will not back down even an inch on its rights to peaceful nuclear energy,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Islamshahr, southwest of the capital.
“The enrichment of uranium and having nuclear fuel are among the main demands of Iranian nation,” he added in the address broadcast live on state television.
Iran has vehemently rejected warnings by the West to halt its sensitive nuclear activities, particularly the enrichment of uranium, a process which makes fuel for nuclear power stations but can be extended to form the core of an atomic bomb.
After several rounds of fruitless talks with Iran, the European Union has declared the issue must now go before the United Nations, where the Security Council is working on a US-led resolution that would allow for economic sanctions.
The West sees Iran’s nuclear programme as a cover for weapons development, but Tehran insists it is for peaceful energy purposes only, and says it has every right to enrich uranium under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Ahmadinejad also took another verbal swipe at its arch-enemy Israel, saying “the Zionist regime is fraudulent and illegitimate and cannot survive”.
“The big powers have created this fraud regime and allowed it to commit all kind of crimes to guarantee their interests,” he told the crowd.
Ahmadinejad has in the past called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” or even relocated as far away as Alaska, and has also questioned the Holocaust.
His comments came on the eve of the Islamic republic’s “Qods (Jerusalem) Day” in support of the Palestinians and to condemn Israel.
Israel has repeatedly said Iran is now its greatest threat, following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in 2003.
The Jewish state is however widely considered the Middle East’s sole, if undeclared nuclear weapons power with an estimated arsenal of 200 warheads.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held talks in Moscow this week to try to increase the pressure on Iran but President Vladimir Putin appeared to offer no concrete steps to calm his fears.
“We are at a critical juncture and the entire international community must join ranks to block Iran’s true intention of arming itself with nuclear weapons,” Olmert said in a statement after talks with Putin Wednesday.
Olmert described Iran’s atomic project as “a threat to Israel which we cannot reconcile ourselves to.”
But Putin refrained from any direct public reference to Iran, offering only a statement that the struggle against “terror, extremism and nationalist disputes” united the two countries.
Russia is constructing Iran’s first civilian nuclear power station at Bushehr in the southeast of the country and has resisted a push for UN sanctions, arguing these could provoke a regional crisis.
Moscow also supplies the Islamic republic with sophisticated conventional weapons and has multi-billion economic ties with Iran.