Bloomberg: Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged to maintain his country’s nuclear work ahead of the expiry of a United Nations deadline for the Islamic Republic to halt its program. By Marc Wolfensberger and Ladane Nasseri
Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) — Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged to maintain his country’s nuclear work ahead of the expiry of a United Nations deadline for the Islamic Republic to halt its program.
Accessing nuclear energy is “very important for the progress and honor of the country,” the Iranian president told supporters today at a rally in the northern Gilan province, the official Islamic Students News Agency reported.
“If we shut down other activities for 10 years and the country only focuses on nuclear energy it will be worth it because if we obtain this energy our people will advance as much as 50 years,” Ahmadinejad, pronounced ah-ma-deen-ah-ZHAD, said.
After months of negotiations, the UN Security Council unanimously voted Dec. 23 to impose sanctions on Iran over its atomic program, including a ban on the acquisition of materials and technology that might be used to build nuclear weapons. The UN also froze the assets of individuals and groups associated with the program and gave Iran 60 days to halt uranium enrichment, the process by which the element can be made into a form usable in a reactor or a bomb.
The council’s five permanent members – the U.S., U.K., Russia, China and France — plus Germany required that Iran suspend enrichment as a condition of further negotiations. The resolution calls for tougher sanctions if today’s deadline isn’t met.
The UN nuclear organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is scheduled to report to the Security Council by the end of this week on whether Iran is complying with demands to stop producing nuclear fuel.
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, yesterday urged the U.S. and its European allies to return to talks on the atomic issue.
The envoy told reporters he had a “good, constructive” meeting about his country’s program in Vienna with IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Still, Larijani called a suspension of enrichment a “political decision, not a technical, professional approach.”
The U.S., which suspects Iran is trying to build an atomic bomb, has been the most active in pushing for sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The Bush administration has also accused elements in Iran’s military forces of meddling in neighboring Iraq. The Iranian government denies wanting to build a weapon, and says the country’s program is intended to fuel power stations.
On Feb. 15, a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group led by the USS John C. Stennis arrived in the Persian Gulf region, according to a statement from the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet released yesterday. The move is part of a buildup of U.S. forces in the area amid heightened tension with Iran.
The nuclear-powered Stennis joins the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower as the second aircraft carrier battle group in the region. U.S. President George W. Bush ordered its deployment last month.