Iran Nuclear NewsAhmadinejad: Iran open to talks

Ahmadinejad: Iran open to talks

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CNN: Iran’s president has said he is willing to negotiate with the United States and other world powers over his country’s nuclear program, even as he stepped up his rhetoric against Israel. JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) — Iran’s president has said he is willing to negotiate with the United States and other world powers over his country’s nuclear program, even as he stepped up his rhetoric against Israel.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a visit to Indonesia, told a gathering of students that every country had the right to use new technology to meet its energy needs, not just America, The Associated Press reported.

He also called Israel “a tyrannical regime” heading for destruction, echoing his earlier calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, AP said.

Ahmadinejad said his country was willing to open talks with the West, but that the United States first must drop its “bad attitude.”

“We are not only defending our rights, we are defending the rights of many other countries,” he said, according to AP. “By maintaining our position, we are defending our independence.”

Ahmadinejad’s visit to Indonesia — a Muslim majority nation with close ties to Tehran — comes amid a deepening standoff over his country’s nuclear program and suspicions it is developing nuclear weapons.

This week, key U.N. Security Council members agreed to give Iran a choice of incentives or sanctions in deciding whether to meet demand to suspend uranium enrichment.

Ahmadinejad told a Jakarta TV station in an interview Thursday morning that he was ready to negotiate with any country to resolve the dispute, but said that any threats against his country would make talks difficult.

“If someone points an arm (a weapon) at your face and says you must speak, will you do that?” he said, according to an Associated Press report.

The Iranian president said that Western nations with large stocks of nuclear weapons were practicing “double standards” in pressing Iran to stop its peaceful nuclear program, and dismissed the threat of sanctions.

“We do not need to be dependent on others,” he said.

Earlier, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he was willing to help mediate in the hope of finding a diplomatic solution.

Yudhoyono’s spokesman, Dino Pati Djalal, said Iran was very receptive to the offer.

“We need to breathe new life into the negotiations,” he said, according to a report from AP.

Yudhoyono has said he hoped Iran would continue dialogue with the IAEA.

“There is still room for a peaceful and just solution,” he said. “President Ahmadinejad was more than willing to have a genuine and fair negotiation.”

With Iran’s nuclear ambitions dominating the international agenda, Ahmadinejad began a state visit to Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim state, on Wednesday.

Ahmadinejad’s visit comes just days after he sent a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush, the first direct communication between an Iranian leader and a U.S. president since the Islamic revolution in Tehran in 1979.

Bush administration officials have dismissed the gesture. But in Jakarta, Ahmadinejad said the diplomatic ball was still in the American court.

“We are not disappointed because we sent the letter to the president if they choose not to answer it depends on them, we think we made the correct decision to send this letter at this junction, and we have done it, it now depends on the other side,” Ahmadinejad said Wednesday.

President Bush commented on the letter Wednesday morning during an interview with Florida newspapers, which was posted on the St. Petersburg Times’ Web site.

“It looks like it did not answer the main question that the world is asking and that is, ‘When will you get rid of your nuclear program,'” Bush said in his first public comment on the letter.

“Britain, France, Germany — coupled with the United States and Russia and China — have all agreed that the Iranians should not have a weapon or the capacity to make a weapon. There is a universal agreement toward that goal and the letter didn’t address that question,” he said.

On Monday, a spokesman for Ahmadinejad said the Iranian president had sent a letter to Bush through the Swiss embassy that proposed “new ways” to end the current situation regarding Iran’s nuclear program, which was dismissed by both the White House and the U.S. State Department for failing to address the nuclear issue.

Iran’s president also on Wednesday dismissed Western concerns over its nuclear program as “a big lie.”

The comments from Ahmadinejad come a day after key U.N. Security Council members agreed to present Tehran with a choice of incentives or sanctions in deciding whether to suspend uranium enrichment.

Meanwhile, in a letter to Time magazine published on its Web site Wednesday, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered new possibilities toward solving the impasse with the United States and its allies on the issue, The Associated Press reported.

Hassan Rohani, Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator, said Tehran would consider ratifying an International Atomic Energy Agency protocol that provides for intrusive and snap inspections and would also address the question of preventing a pullout from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The current Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Tuesday that Tehran had no intention of withdrawing from the treaty and promised to cooperate if the U.N. atomic watchdog agency dealt with the issue of its nuclear program, rather than the Security Council.

Iran ended all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA in February, including allowing snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.

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