AP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday disputed reports that Russian leader Vladimir Putin made proposals to resolve the standoff with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program during his visit this week. The Associated Press
By NASSER KARIMI
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday disputed reports that Russian leader Vladimir Putin made proposals to resolve the standoff with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program during his visit this week.
A day earlier, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Putin had carried a “special message” concerning the nuclear issue in talks with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran’s official news agency IRNA quoted Khamenei as saying he would give Putin’s proposal serious thought before giving a response, without giving further details. “We will ponder your words and proposal,” Khamenei said, according to IRNA.
But when asked Thursday if Putin had made a proposal on the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad said the Russian leader “did not say any word,” according to IRNA. On the nuclear issue, “we both emphasized that we were determined to negotiate,” IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
“There was no nuclear proposal. Putin’s message was a message of comprehensive cooperation and friendship,” he was also quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars News agency.
There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancies between the reports on Wednesday and Thursday, or the diverging statements from Iran’s supreme leader and the president. Calls to officials on Thursday was not immediately returned.
The comments raised the possibility that Putin had brought the offer directly to Khamenei, going over Ahmadinejad’s head. Khamenei holds ultimate say in all political issues in Iran and is believed to at times take a direct hand in setting nuclear policy.
Ahmadinejad holds less direct say in nuclear issues and some in Iran have criticized him, saying his inflammatory rhetoric has exacerbated the confrontation with the West.
Wednesday’s reports did not specify the details of the proposal. Officials close to hard-liners within Iran’s ruling Islamic establishment said they believed it included a kind of “time out” on U.N. sanctions against Iran if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment.
The U.N. Security Council has twice imposed limited sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt enrichment. Russia has resisted a third round of sanctions but has said Tehran must suspend the process, which can be used to produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or a nuclear warhead.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to build a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies, saying its program aims only to generate electricity. Putin has said he sees no evidence that Iran is building a weapon but has said Iran should not be allowed to do so.
Also Thursday, Iran denounced a comment by President Bush that the country’s nuclear activities could lead to World War III, saying the statement was rhetoric geared at diverting U.S. attention from White House failures in Iraq.
Bush said in a news conference Wednesday that a nuclear-armed Iran could ignite a world war.
“I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon,” Bush said.