Thu, May 11, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Ahmadinejad stands his ground

NO BACKING DOWN The Iranian president reiterated that his country had no desire to produce nuclear weapons and said that Tehran was being persecuted by the US

AP , JAKARTA

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted yesterday that his country's nuclear program was peaceful and that it had every right to pursue new technology, amid US-led international efforts to get Tehran to suspend enrichment of uranium.

Ahmadinejad made the remarks after meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who said his country -- the world's most populous Muslim nation -- was willing to mediate in the standoff.

Ahmadinejad told reporters that Iran would "absolutely not back out" from defending its right to pursue new technology. He also accused the US of monopolizing the nuclear technology market to secure profits while at the same time engaging in non-peaceful proliferation.

"Today the people of Iran are not just defending their own rights, but also those of other nations," he said.

"[The US] want to prevent other countries from reaching the pinnacle of science and technology," he said.

Ahmadinejad -- fighting a US-led effort to bring UN sanctions down on Iran if it refuses to compromise on the nuclear standoff -- is in Indonesia for a three-day state visit followed by a development conference in Bali.

The fiery Iranian leader raised hopes of a breakthrough with the US just days ago by sending a letter to President George W. Bush, the first such letter to a US leader in 27 years.

But the letter was quickly dismissed by Washington.

Ahmadinejad said he was not "disquieted" by the reaction.

"If they choose not to answer our question, it depends on them," he said, adding that he felt it was the correct decision to send the letter.

Yudhoyono, speaking at a joint news conference after the two met for about 90 minutes, said he believes Iran is willing to resolve the issue peacefully through further negotiations, and offered to help mediate.

"Hopefully, in this very critical issue we can cooperate well in reducing the tensions," he said.

Yudhoyono's spokesman said later that Iran was very receptive to Yudhoyono's offer, which he said was still at the "embryonic" stage.

"We need to breathe new life into the negotiations," Dino Pati Djalal said.

Yudhoyono also said he was hopeful Iran could continue dialogue with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"There is still room for a peaceful and just solution," he said.

"President Ahmadinejad was more than willing to have a genuine and fair negotiation," he said.

The US and some European nations accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies, saying it aims only to generate energy.

The US government is backing a draft UN resolution that could lead to sanctions and possible military action if Iran does not suspend uranium enrichment.

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