New York Times: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday defied pressure from foreign leaders to accept a package of incentives in return for ending all nuclear activities, saying Iran will pursue its legal right to develop a peaceful nuclear program. The New York Times
By NAZILA FATHI and STEVEN LEE MYERS
TEHRAN, June 2 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday defied pressure from foreign leaders to accept a package of incentives in return for ending all nuclear activities, saying Iran will pursue its legal right to develop a peaceful nuclear program.
“Any pressure to deprive our people from their right will not bear any fruit,” he was quoted as saying on state-run television.
“Their opposition to our program is not because of their concern over the spread of nuclear weapons,” he said. “They are worried that Iran would become a model for other independent countries, especially Islamic countries, for access to advanced technology.”
The details of the incentive package approved at a meeting of foreign ministers from the United States, Germany, Britain, France, China and Russia in Vienna on Thursday have not been made public, but the proposal is expected to be presented to Iran in the coming days. In a statement, the six countries warned that “further steps” would be taken by the United Nations Security Council if Iran did not comply, but avoided any mention of sanctions or other specific punitive measures.
Diplomats emphasized the unanimity of the major nations in drafting a compromise proposal, and in Vienna on Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of a shared commitment to the offer. “We also have an alternative path if Iran doesn’t negotiate,” she said.
But remarks by Russian and British leaders on Friday made it clear that the unanimity extended only to the incentives, not the possible punishments.
In an interview with international news agencies at his residence outside Moscow, Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia, said his country opposed the use of military force against Iran “under any circumstances.”
He also ruled out any immediate discussion of sanctions, leaving open the question of whether Russia would ever support punitive action if Iran persists in resisting demands to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
“As for sanctions, we think it is a bit too early to put those on the agenda, as well,” Mr. Putin said, according to the Interfax news agency. “There needs to be a detailed discussion with the Iranian leadership.”
In a statement by the Foreign Office, Britain also ruled out the use of military force against Iran. “All parties are committed to a diplomatic solution,” the statement said. “The use of military force was not discussed at all last night. This reflects the fact that military force is not on the agenda.”
On Friday, the White House dismissed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks as a “negotiating position.” Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the final word over decisions on the country’s nuclear program.
Highly enriched uranium can be used for making nuclear weapons. Iran has said that it wants to enrich uranium to low levels to use as nuclear fuel at its plants, and that it is entitled to do so under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The United States says it forfeited that right by using its nuclear power program as cover for developing weapons.
However, Mohammad Saeedi, deputy chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, suggested on Friday that Iran might enrich uranium to higher levels than previously announced.
Mr. Saeedi said that Iran would not accept a limit on the levels of its uranium enrichment, the ISNA news agency reported.
“It is incorrect to put a 3.5, 5 or even a 10 percent cap on Iran’s level of uranium enrichment,” ISNA quoted him as saying. “Fuel for light water reactors needs uranium enriched to even 19.9 percent.”
“So, these remarks that Iran should accept a 10 percent cap on its enrichment cannot be correct,” he added, without elaborating.
Iran uses a heavy-water program for enriching its uranium and had announced that it would enrich uranium up to 4 percent. Like Russia, China has argued that the best way to win concessions from Iran at least at this point is with engagement, not sanctions. That shared position effectively shelved any discussion of punitive action by the Security Council, where Russia and China both have veto power.
Asked if Russia would join in economic sanctions if Iran continued to resist international inspections and demands to suspend its enrichment programs, Mr. Putin said he would not discuss hypothetical questions.
“If a grandmother had certain gender characteristics,” he said, “she would be a grandfather.”
Nazila Fathi reported from Tehran for this article, and Steven Lee Myers from Moscow.