Tue, May 09, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Ahmadinejad proposes `new solutions' to dispute


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written to US President George W. Bush proposing "new solutions" to their differences in the first letter from an Iranian leader to a US president in 27 years, government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham said yesterday.

The letter was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran which has a US interests section, Elham told a press conference.

In the letter, Ahmadinejad proposes "new solutions for getting out of international problems and the current fragile situation of the world," Elham said.

Elham did not mention the nuclear dispute -- the major issue on which Washington and Tehran are at loggerheads. The US is leading Western efforts to have the UN Security Council censure Iran for refusing to cease enrichment of uranium.

It is the first time that an Iranian president has written to his US counterpart since 1979, when the two countries broke relations after Iranian militants stormed the US embassy and held the occupants hostage for more than a year.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad renewed Iran's threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) if the UN Security Council imposes sanctions over its nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that Washington and its allies "don't give us anything and yet they want to impose sanctions on us." He called the threat of sanctions "meaningless."

The US is backing attempts by Britain and France to win Security Council approval for a UN resolution that would threaten possible further measures if Iran does not suspend uranium enrichment -- a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity or material for atomic warheads.

The Western nations want to invoke Chapter 7 of the UN Charter that would allow economic sanctions or military action, if necessary, to force Iran to comply with the Security Council's demand that it cease enrichment.

But Russia and China, the other two veto-holding members of the Security Council, oppose such moves.

Meanwhile, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, in Turkey as part of Iranian efforts to try to rally support among the country's neighbors, said yesterday Iran would like to see a peaceful solution to growing tensions with the US over its nuclear program.

"We wish the issue of the nuclear program to be solved through peaceful means," Larijani told reporters upon his arrival in Ankara.

Larijani said that Iran regarded the "NPT as a good agreement. We have no intention to leave it."

But he added that "if we're threatened ... then we would decide accordingly."

Larijani's visit comes a few days after he met with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, where he sought to ease regional fears about Iran's nuclear intentions.

Larijani is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Yigit Alpogan, head of the National Security Council.

And in New York, the foreign ministers of six major powers were to meet yesterday in a bid to map out a common strategy to force Iran to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work that could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will host her counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia as well as EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana at a working dinner that will focus on Tehran.

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