Iran Nuclear NewsUS doubts Iranian elections will change nuclear showdown

US doubts Iranian elections will change nuclear showdown

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AFP: Whoeever wins Iran’s presidential run-off elections is unlikely to come clean about the country’s controversial nuclear program, a senior US State Department official said Friday. The official was speaking as Iranians were voting Friday amid indications that hardliner Mahmood Ahmadinejad has taken a strong lead over his rival moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, winning over 60 percent of votes among the 3.5 million ballots counted so far. AFP

by P. Parameswaran

WASHINGTON – Whoeever wins Iran’s presidential run-off elections is unlikely to come clean about the country’s controversial nuclear program, a senior US State Department official said Friday.

The official was speaking as Iranians were voting Friday amid indications that hardliner Mahmood Ahmadinejad has taken a strong lead over his rival moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, winning over 60 percent of votes among the 3.5 million ballots counted so far.

“If there were an Iranian leader who is elected, who’s an arch conservative who did what Kadhafi did (and says): ‘we’ll be clean and you can inspect us,’ I’d expect that would elicit quite a different response from us than we are now,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“If that happened, either candidate did that, I’ll be surprised,” he said.

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2003 renounced weapons of mass destruction. Relations between the United States and Libya have been improving since that landmark decision.

The State Department official said the United States would watch carefully the policies to be crafted and actions to be taken by the new Iranian president.

“It goes back to policies and actions as opposed to personalities,” he said, not expressing any preference for Rafsanjani or Ahmadinejad.

Asked whether the United States would be “engaging” with the new Iranian president, the US official said: “The issue of who wins is not going to determine whether we engage or not.

“The issue of engagement will be a factor (based on) policy decisions the Iranian government makes and specific actions that it takes,” he said. “That will be the criteria by which we decide what we do.”

Earlier Friday, Iran’s foreign ministry said the country would eventually resume its controversial uranium enrichment activities regardless of the result of the Islamic republic’s presidential election.

“Whoever is the next president, a permanent suspension is not on the cards,” foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters in Tehran.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had on Thursday urged Iran to abide by a nuclear suspension agreement signed in Paris and not to engage in nuclear enrichment activities.

Washington’s top diplomat said the United States supported the work of the so-called EU3 negotiators of Britain, France and Germany in trying to secure a guarantee from Iran that it is not making nuclear weapons.

Iran claims its nuclear activity is purely non-military and that it has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, but Washington says Tehran is using its civilian program to mask covert atomic weapons work.

Washington refuses to acknowledge that any form of democracy has taken place in Iran, arguing that only candidates acceptable to the ruling clerics have been allowed to stand.

Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the Iranian election was not fair.

“Well, the United States thinks that the choice has been severely restricted, to the extent that it’s not a fair representation of the desires of the Iranian people,” he said. “It doesn’t strike us as a very democratic choice that they’ve been given.”

He declined to comment on the voting, which was extended until late into the evening on Friday. “It’s something that, before commenting on, we’d want to see what happens.”

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