Iran Nuclear NewsAnnan says Iran’s president holds to nuclear program

Annan says Iran’s president holds to nuclear program

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New York Times: The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, said Sunday after meeting here with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran that the president was willing to enter into negotiations on his country’s nuclear program but would not agree to suspending uranium enrichment beforehand, as demanded by the Security Council. The New York Times

By WARREN HOGE

TEHRAN, Sept. 3 — The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, said Sunday after meeting here with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran that the president was willing to enter into negotiations on his country’s nuclear program but would not agree to suspending uranium enrichment beforehand, as demanded by the Security Council.

In what his aides described as the toughest meeting of his week-old Middle East diplomatic journey, Mr. Annan also obtained a general commitment from Mr. Ahmadinejad to support the Security Council resolution ending the war in Lebanon, though not a specific pledge to back the disarming of the Hezbollah militia, which Iran helps to finance and arm.

Mr. Annan, speaking after the meeting at a joint news conference with Manouchehr Mottaki, the foreign minister, said the Iranian president “reaffirmed his country’s support for the implementation of Resolution 1701 and agrees with me that we should do everything to strengthen the territorial integrity of Lebanon.” He was referring to the resolution passed by the Security Council on Aug. 14 to halt the fighting between Israel and Lebanon.

On the dismantlement of Hezbollah and the imposition of an arms embargo, both of which are called for in the resolution, Mr. Ahmadinejad said he would support whatever the Lebanese endorsed, Mr. Annan’s aides said.

Mr. Mottaki said Iran was ready “to cooperate with the United Nations in resuming peace in Lebanon and on its borders.”

But he was sharply critical of the resolution demanding that Iran curtail its nuclear activities, saying the action was a “mistake,” had been adopted “under pressure from the United States and Britain” and represented a “black mark against them.”

The Annan aides, who said they were not authorized to discuss the closed-door meeting for attribution, described Mr. Ahmadinejad as confident, brash and uncompromising, bent on impressing his visitors with the growing power of Iran in the region and the world and portraying the United States and Britain as fading powers paying a price for meddling in the Middle East.

One official who attended the meeting described the overall performance as one telegraphing the message: “Pay attention to us; show us some respect.”

The official said Mr. Annan noted that Iran already had an interest in helping with the reconstruction of Lebanon and asked Mr. Ahmadinejad to work “collectively” through the United Nations. Much of the rebuilding effort on the ground so far is being carried out by Hezbollah, which gets the credit while presumably using Iranian funds.

On a positive note, the aide said, Mr. Ahmadinejad said he would encourage a prisoner exchange between Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah, a delicate negotiation that Mr. Annan has been pursuing since the start of his trip.

Mr. Annan, who canceled a trip here in November after Mr. Ahmadinejad said that Israel should be “wiped off the map,” said he brought up with the Iranian president his dismay at cartoons about the Holocaust now on exhibit in Tehran.

He told the roomful of reporters that the Holocaust, once described by Mr. Ahmadinejad as “a myth,” should be treated as an “undeniable historical fact” and not exploited “as an excuse for incitement to hatred or violence.”

The show was staged by an Iranian newspaper in retaliation for the September publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Danish and other European newspapers, which prompted protest attacks on European embassies.

“I think all of us in this room remember the uproar the Danish cartoons created, particularly in this region,” Mr. Annan said.

Asserting that the right of freedom of expression had to be exercised with responsibility and sensitivity, he said, “I think the tragedy of the Holocaust is a sad and an undeniable historical fact, so we should really accept that fact and teach children what happened in World War II and ensure that it is never repeated.”

Mr. Mottaki defended the exhibit as scholarly research and said that only artistic events that insulted were objectionable. “If they don’t insult and just seek to raise questions, there’s nothing wrong with them,” he said.

Though the show is entitled “Holocaust International Cartoon Contest,” its contents have little to do with the events of World War II. Drawings of a Jew with an outsize nose and a vampire wearing a large Star of David and drinking the blood of Palestinians are typical of the exhibits.

Hamid Reza Asefi, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said at a separate news conference on Sunday that Iran planned a conference for the autumn questioning the Holocaust.

Mr. Annan’s visit, part of his 10-country tour meant to shore up support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, came just days after Iran failed to meet a Security Council deadline to halt delicate nuclear work. The United States says the work is aimed at producing a nuclear weapon, but Iran says it is to meet energy needs.

In June, the five permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany offered Iran an incentives package if it would roll back its nuclear program. Iran responded to the package on Aug. 22, rejecting the request that it stop enriching uranium before talks could begin.

On July 31, the Security Council passed its resolution demanding that enrichment end by Aug. 31 and held out the threat of sanctions if it did not.

Negotiations shift this week to the European Union, whose foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, plans to meet with Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator.

Mr. Larijani was among the five Iranian leaders with whom Mr. Annan met during his two days here. But Mr. Annan was disappointed in his hope of seeing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader.

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