Bloomberg: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Persian Gulf nation will resist pressure from world powers to halt its nuclear program, following talks that failed to produce a breakthrough in the dispute over the project.
By Ladane Nasseri
July 23 (Bloomberg) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Persian Gulf nation will resist pressure from world powers to halt its nuclear program, following talks that failed to produce a breakthrough in the dispute over the project.
"They said Iran has surrendered. They are mistaken," Ahmadinejad said today, referring to the international quarrel, in a speech broadcast live on state television from the western town of Yasouj. "If the great powers think they can sit down and discuss Iran's rights and pressurize Iranians, such a thing won't happen in 100 years."
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns and other diplomats met with Iranian officials in Geneva on July 19, offering Iran economic and diplomatic incentives to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can produce energy or an atomic bomb.
Solana gave Iran two weeks to respond to the talks, and after the Geneva meeting, Ahmadinejad described the discussions as a "step forward." In his speech today, the Iranian president said his country's "people consider nuclear energy as their undeniable right," adding, "They will stand until the end."
Tensions over Iran's nuclear work helped pushed oil prices to a record earlier this month, amid concerns that Israel or the U.S. might resort to military action to halt the atomic drive, should diplomacy fail.
Strait of Hormuz
Iran holds the world's second-biggest oil and natural gas reserves, and has said it may blockade the Strait of Hormuz if its nuclear sites are attacked. About a fifth of the world's daily oil supply is shipped through the chokepoint, between Iran and Oman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
The incentives package offered in Geneva was the latest held out to the country in three years of nuclear negotiations, which have also seen the United Nations impose three sets of sanctions on the nation for refusing to stop its atomic work. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week called on Iran to stop "stalling," promising more UN penalties if it doesn't respond to the package.
The Iranian president welcomed the U.S. presence at the Geneva talks, though he cautioned the Bush administration against trying to pressure Iran over its nuclear developments. The meeting was the highest-level encounter between American and Iranian officials since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
"You took a step forward toward acknowledging the Iranian people's rights and toward justice," Ahmadinejad said today. "Don't spoil this positive step by using oppressors' rhetoric and bullying."
'Play for Time'
The government in Tehran wants to string out discussions with the world powers, an analyst said today.
"The interest of Iran is to play for time and wait until President Bush leaves office," Heinrich Matthee, Middle East analyst at Control Risks, a London-based risk consultancy, said by phone. "They may be willing, eventually, under some pressure to make some concessions before the end of Bush's term but I believe most of those concessions will be turn out to be symbolic and temporary."
Iran wants the nuclear program to help modernize its economy and boost its regional status, Matthee said. Ahmadinejad "has used this issue to improve or bolster his position as a real defender of Iranian national interests and in this way to unite different domestic factions."
The talks with Iran have been led by the EU with U.S. backing, and involved all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and says enriching uranium on its territory is a "legitimate right."
The Iranian government says it is trying to enrich uranium to produce fuel for power stations instead of building the weapons that the U.S. and some European countries say it wants.
EU foreign ministers said yesterday in Brussels that they would maintain pressure on Iran.
Solana, who said on July 19 that the Western powers "did not get what we were looking for" from the Geneva talks, said yesterday following the Brussels discussions that Ahmadinejad's government should respond specifically to the concerns of the EU and the U.S. "within weeks."
Two days ago, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, that he's ready to back another round of sanctions if Iran doesn't take concrete steps to meeting Security Council demands.
The U.S. is already fine-tuning financial penalties that would hit everything from Iranian gasoline imports to its insurance deals, the Wall Street Journal reported July 21.