AP: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran was prepared for any possibility in the standoff with the West over its nuclear activities – a tough reaction to a U.S. military buildup in the Gulf meant as a warning to Tehran. Associated Press
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran was prepared for any possibility in the standoff with the West over its nuclear activities – a tough reaction to a U.S. military buildup in the Gulf meant as a warning to Tehran.
His comments were an apparent reaction to the U.S. decision to deploy a second aircraft carrier, the USS Stennis, to the Gulf. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the increased U.S. presence was to impress on Iran that the four-year war in Iraq has not made America vulnerable.
“Today, with the grace of God, we have gone through the arduous passes and we are ready for anything in this path,” state-run television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
The U.N. Security Council recently imposed limited sanctions to punish Iran for defying a resolution demanding that it suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fissile material to fuel nuclear reactors or, at purer concentrations, the core of nuclear weapons.
The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies, insisting it only wants to produce energy. U.S. administration officials have said diplomacy was the focus of their policy on Iran but have never ruled out attacks on Iran.
In Paris, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said he was concerned the sanctions could escalate Iran’s standoff with Western powers.
“I don’t think sanctions will resolve the issue … sanctions in my view could lead to escalation on both sides,” he warned.
ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, suggested that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities ultimately would not thwart its ambitions.
“What we know is that Iran has the knowledge, but you cannot bomb knowledge,” he said.
ElBaradei said the pressure has failed to break a consensus in Iran that the oil-rich nation needs to master the complex process of uranium enrichment. Iran this week said it is moving toward large-scale enrichment involving 3,000 centrifuges, which spin uranium gas into enriched material.
Ahmadinejad said Iran will not be deterred by threats and sanctions, which it has rejected as “invalid” and “illegal.”
“Their aim is to frighten Iran and weaken the resistance of the Iranian nation but they will not succeed,” he was quoted as saying.
ElBaradei called for a resumption of talks with Tehran and said he would support any efforts to “engage Iran,” including the possibility of a French negotiator.
“My worry right now is that each side is sticking to its guns,” he said. “We need someone to reach out.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week that now is not the time for the United States to talk to Iran, adding that Tehran does not appear ready to accept a conditional U.S. offer to join European talks over its nuclear program.
ElBaradei warned that only applying pressure could prompt the Islamic republic to follow the path of North Korea, which kicked out U.N. inspectors and pulled out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003 and then conducted its first-ever nuclear weapons test last October.
“My priority is to keep Iran inside the system,” he said.
Meanwhile, a high-level Iranian delegation arrived in North Korea on Thursday, the communist nation’s media reported. North Korea, like Iran, is facing intense international pressure to give up its nuclear weapons programs.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry delegation, led by Vice Minister Mahdi Safari, arrived in Pyongyang, the Korean Central News Agency reported in a one-sentence dispatch without giving any further details.
Ahmadinejad also denounced critics of his nuclear diplomacy at home, saying their calls for compromise echo “the words of the enemy” and will not affect his government’s handling of the nuclear dossier with the West.
Conservatives and reformists alike have in recent weeks openly challenged Ahmadinejad’s hard-line nuclear diplomacy tactics, with many saying his fiery anti-Western remarks are doing more harm than good.
Reformists have called for a return to suspension of nuclear activities to avoid further punishment at the Security Council.
“Unfortunately, some inside the country try to fabricate news and portray a bad image of the great achievement of the Iranian nation,” Ahmadinejad said in reference to Iran’s uranium enrichment program.
They “prescribe compromise, repeat the words of the enemy. Of course, this will have no effect,” he added.