Tue, Aug 23, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Iranian president scolds Europe for its `hostile policies'


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scolded Europeans, accusing them of selling goods to Iran with one hand while trying to curb Tehran's contentious nuclear program with the other.

Legislators, meanwhile, criticized the president's Cabinet nominees, with one lawmaker asserting that Ahmadinejad's proposed government had autocratic leanings.

In a speech to parliament on Sunday, the new president did not name any European country but was clearly referring to Britain, France and Germany -- Iran's largest European trading partners. The three countries referred Tehran to the UN's nuclear watchdog earlier this month after Iran announced it would resume processing uranium.

The three countries had been negotiating with Iran on behalf of the EU and the US in what was a failed attempt to keep Tehran from resuming uranium conversion, a precursor step to enrichment.

Ahmadinejad said the Europeans should be "thankful" that Iran imports their products, but instead they "apply hostile policies against Iran and do not recognize our legitimate rights" -- a reference to Iran's right to develop nuclear energy as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

"What kind of balance is this? This is cruel and unfair. Our nation will not tolerate such behavior on the international scene," he said.

Ahmadinejad said he wanted friendly ties with Iran's trading partners, but declared economic links were inseparable from political relations -- including support for Iran's nuclear development.

The big three European powers had sought to persuade Iran to abandon the enrichment of uranium and instead import fuel for its nuclear program, which Iran repeatedly has claimed is intended only for electricity generation. Enriched uranium also can be used to produce for nuclear weapons.

Iran has rejected the European proposals, insisting it must be self-sufficient and able to produce reactor fuel. The US, which backs the European efforts, accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons, which Iran denies.

In related news, dissident journalist Akbar Ganji, Iran's most prominent political prisoner, has ended a lengthy hunger strike and is in "fair" health, his wife confirmed to reporters yesterday.

"I saw him last night. He has ended his hunger strike. He is fairly well," Massoumeh Shafii said in a brief statement.

The 46-year-old was sentenced to six years in prison in 2001 after he wrote articles implicating several regime officials in the murders of opposition intellectuals and writers.

He began refusing food on June 11 to protest the conditions of his detention and in a bid to secure his unconditional release. The judiciary insisted last week that the strike had ended, but no independent confirmation was available given that family members and lawyers were barred from visiting him.

On Friday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter asking Ahmadinejad to free Ganji for humanitarian reasons.

The state news agency IRNA reported on Saturday that Ganji was out of intensive care after ending his hunger strike.

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