AFP: A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday Iran is ready for more sanctions over its nuclear programme and will not bow to pressure in meeting any deadline set by world powers.
By Hiedeh Farmani
TEHRAN (AFP) — A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday Iran is ready for more sanctions over its nuclear programme and will not bow to pressure in meeting any deadline set by world powers.
"No one can impose sanctions on Iran anymore. We welcome sanctions. We have given our proposed package," Ahmadinejad told reporters after parliament backed 18 of the 21 members in his new cabinet.
He was referring to Tehran's proposals for the basis of fresh talks with world powers on its controversial nuclear drive.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told AFP on Thursday the updated package will be delivered "in the coming week."
The European Union is keen to study any new offer on Tehran's nuclear ambitions, though it has not yet received the new proposals, an EU official said.
Iran's defiance comes after the United States and five other world powers — Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany — pressed it on Wednesday to accept an offer of face-to-face nuclear talks before a key UN meeting.
Diplomats from the six powers, known as P5+1, and the EU met in Frankfurt on Wednesday, urging Iran to accept their offer of direct talks.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said Tehran will not bow to threats or pressure.
"We are a nation which believes in dialogue and interaction, but if they want to set up a deadline using threat and pressure, it is not acceptable," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
Iran insists its nuclear work is peaceful but Western countries allege that it wants atomic weapons. The UN Security Council has slapped three rounds of sanctions on the Islamic republic, and pressure is growing for more.
Ghashghavi said Iran's nuclear plans must be dealt with by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), not by the UN Security Council. He also dismissed the threat of further sanctions.
"We have said this many times that sanctions is a rusty sword which has no effect. There is no reason for retreat, but we are committed to our international obligations," he added.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has spearheaded efforts by the major powers to convince Iran to halt uranium enrichment in exchange for political and economic incentives.
US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters on Wednesday that world powers expect Iran "to respond to the offer of talks (issued by the six) in April by agreeing to meet before the UN General Assembly meeting."
The General Assembly meets in New York from September 21.
Ahmadinejad's chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie told reporters the president would attend the General Assembly, which "will be a good occasion to participate in an international meeting and to encourage Iranian views in managing the world."
Wednesday's P5+1 meeting was held after an IAEA report last week said Iran has slowed production of enriched uranium — usable in nuclear power but also in weapons — and agreed to tighter monitoring of its Natanz enrichment plant.
Washington has downplayed the report, saying Iran is still not cooperating fully with UN inspectors.
Tehran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told the state-owned Arabic language television channel Al-Alam on Thursday Iran has "completely mastered nuclear technology, in particular uranium enrichment."
He said it had "paid a high price for that… and will certainly not renounce this right."
"If they (P5+1) accept this harsh reality — that we will suspend neither our nuclear activity nor our cooperation with the IAEA — and act reasonably, we can be optimistic that a new page has been turned."
France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the IAEA should publish annexes of its report because these may provide elements that show if Tehran is building an atomic bomb.
"Why doesn't he provide us with the annexes of his report?" Kouchner asked of IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei. "I am not exaggerating. It is clear on reading the IAEA documents that not a single question has been answered."
A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP: "ElBaradei has been watering things down for a very long time and now we've had enough."
He said IAEA inspectors had gathered "a whole series of pieces of evidence, of proof."
This week ElBaradei called the threat from Iran "hyped," and said there is no evidence it will soon have nuclear weapons.