AP: Iran President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Sunday to pursue a peaceful nuclear program – an effort the United States maintains is really a cover for trying to build atomic bombs – and said his government will not be an extremist one. Ahmadinejad also said Iran did not need the United States to help it become more self-reliant.
By KATHY GANNON
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Sunday to pursue a peaceful nuclear program – an effort the United States maintains is really a cover for trying to build atomic bombs – and said his government will not be an extremist one.
Ahmadinejad also said Iran did not need the United States to help it become more self-reliant.
His comments came as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld criticized Friday’s vote, in which the ultraconservative former Tehran mayor steamrolled former President Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, as a “mock election.” Rumsfeld said more than 1,000 potential candidates – including all women – were disqualified from running by the country’s hard-line Guardian Council.
“He is no friend of democracy,” Rumsfeld said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He is a person who is very much supportive of the current ayatollahs, who are telling the people of that country how to live their lives, and my guess is over time the young people and women will find him as well as his masters unacceptable.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also said Sunday his nation, which considers Iran one of its greatest enemies, also believes the election was undemocratic.
One of the most contentious issues between Tehran and Washington is Iran’s nuclear program. Washington accuses Iran of seeking to build weapons, while Tehran says its program is for generating electricity.
On Sunday, Ahmadinejad said he will continue the nuclear program.
“Iran’s peaceful technology is the outcome of the scientific achievements of Iran’s youth,” Ahmadinejad told a news conference broadcast live on state-run television.
“We need the peaceful nuclear technology for energy, medical and agricultural purposes and our scientific progress. We will continue this.”
He also said Iran’s decision would not change: “This is the final path we have taken.”
Tehran’s nearly 20-year-old atomic program was revealed in 2002.
Iran suspended all uranium enrichment-related activities in November to avoid having its nuclear program referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. Uranium enriched to low levels has energy uses, while highly enriched uranium can be used in bombs.
France, Britain and Germany have been negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program, offering economic incentives in the hope of persuading the country to permanently halt uranium enrichment.
Last week, former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told Swedish Radio it would take many years for Iran to achieve the capability to produce highly enriched uranium needed for an atomic bomb.
Ahmadinejad said the Europeans must implement their commitments if they want trust to be established.
“We will continue talks with Europeans while preserving our national interests and insistence on the right of the Iranian nation to use nuclear energy,” he said in a new conference broadcast live on state-run television.
In Jerusalem, Shalom called on the international community to further isolate the Islamic regime because of its “nuclear threat.” Israel accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons that could reach the Jewish state.
On relations with the United States, Ahmadinejad said Iran was determined to make progress and it did not need Washington to achieve that.
“The Iranian nation is taking the path of progress based on self-reliance. It doesn’t need the United States significantly on this path,” he said.
Ahmadinejad said he would seek to improve relations “with any country that doesn’t seek hostilities against Iran,” adding that his foreign policy would focus on “peace, moderation and coexistence.”
“Moderation will be the policy of (my) popular government,” he said. “Extremism will have no place in (my) popular government.”