AFP: Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that new sanctions slapped on his country would not alter Tehran’s nuclear drive, remaining defiant in the face of growing Western pressure.
by Susan Njanji
ABUJA, July 8, 2010 (AFP) – Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that new sanctions slapped on his country would not alter Tehran’s nuclear drive, remaining defiant in the face of growing Western pressure.
Speaking after meeting fellow Muslim leaders at a summit in Nigeria, the Iranian leader said no matter how many sanctions resolutions are approved, “there will be no minor change in our nuclear programme.”
“Those resolutions are only paper,” he said through a translator.
Ahmadinejad has been outspoken in his dismissal of the new sanctions, adopted by the UN Security Council and several Western governments, previously calling them a “used hanky which should be thrown in the dustbin.”
But the head of Iran’s atomic energy, Ali Akbar Salehi, acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that the measures “may slow down” its nuclear drive.
“One can’t say sanctions are ineffective,” Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Salehi as telling a press conference.
Ahmadinejad did not respond directly when asked about Salehi’s comments after the summit, saying simply that Iran had “tremendous and huge resources.”
“Those who have regulated and designed the resolutions against the Islamic republic of Iran need us more than we need them,” he said.
Fresh UN Security Council sanctions were imposed on Iran on June 9, and both the United States and the European Union later took additional measures against Tehran unilaterally.
Western governments suspect Iran’s nuclear programme is a cover for a weapons drive, something Tehran has repeatedly denied, maintaining it is aimed solely at power generation and medical research.
Ahmadinejad was in Nigeria — which holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council this month — for Thursday’s one-day summit of the Developing Eight (D-8) group in Abuja.
The Istanbul-based D-8 groups Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, with a total population of 930 million.
After arriving on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad called the United States a global dictator and lashed out at Israel.
Ahmadinejad’s speech on Wednesday evening in the West African country, where Muslims make up an estimated half of the 150 million population, drew a rapturous welcome from the crowd, which chanted “Nigerians support Iran.”
The aim of the Developing Eight (D8) summit was to improve trade among members, and it was unclear whether the new sanctions against Iran were addressed in the closed-door sessions.
It ended with a call for member nations to speed up progress on a plan to liberalise trade between them and for more cooperation on energy issues, according to the summit’s final declaration.
Leaders at the summit had earlier lamented the fact that little progress has been achieved on boosting trade.
“The D8 has not been able to fully attain its objectives,” said Malaysia’s deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
A so-called preferential trade area, “which was supposed to be the blue-chip of our economic cooperation, had only been ratified by two member states… Malaysia and Iran,” said Yassin.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who came to power in May after the death of his predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, took advantage of the talks to lobby for investment.
Despite its huge oil and gas resources, Nigeria is woefully short of electricity and fuel due to the poor condition of its refineries, which have been hampered by corruption.