Thu, May 18, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Iranian president mocks EU's plan to offer incentives

NOT INTERESTED The president said Europe's plan for ending the crisis over Tehran's nuclear program was akin to offering `nuts' for `gold'

AGENCIES , TEHRAN

Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday ridiculed an EU plan to offer trade and technology incentives in exchange for his country agreeing to halt sensitive nuclear work.

"They say they want to give us incentives. They think they can take away our gold and give us some nuts and chocolate in exchange," Ahmadinejad told a rally in the town of Arak.

In a confident speech carried live on state-run television, he also vowed the Islamic regime would not bow to demands it freeze uranium enrichment work -- at the center of fears the country could acquire atomic weapons.

Warning

The president also again warned that Iran could quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and halt inspections by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"We accepted a suspension for two years," Ahmadinejad said, referring to a now-moribund deal with leading EU members Britain, France and Germany.

"This was a bitter experience for the Iranian people. The Iranians won't be bitten twice on the same spot," he told a crowd of thousands, drawing chants of "Death to America!" and "Ahmadinejad, we love you!"

Enrichment is a process that makes fuel for nuclear power reactors but can also produce the core of a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that it only wants to make reactor fuel and that this is a right enshrined by the NPT.

"We don't need incentives. There is no need to give us incentives, just don't try to wrong us," said the president during the rock festival-style rally.

The European powers are currently drawing up a package of trade and technological incentives they hope will coax Iran into voluntarily curbing its atomic ambitions.

Under the draft deal, Russia would enrich uranium on Iran's behalf, diplomats say.

The offer -- which could include helping Iran acquire a light-water nuclear reactor -- was to have been reviewed on Friday in London by the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, but this meeting has been postponed.

"The reason is to allow more detailed preparations on the EU-3 proposals to Iran," a British Foreign Office spokesman told reporters in London. He added that a meeting would likely take place in the next 10 days or so.

Counteroffer

Later yesterday, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman -- in a mocking turnabout -- offered the Europeans trade incentives from Tehran.

"We are prepared to offer economic incentives to Europe in return for recognizing our right [to enrich uranium]," Hamid Reza Asefi was quoted by state-run radio as saying.

"Iran's 70-million population market is a good incentive for Europe," the radio quoted Asefi as saying.

European countries now have access to the Iranian market, but Tehran has in recent years turned more frequently to Russian and China for trade deals.

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