Sat, Sep 19, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Iran doesn’t need nukes, president says

THREATMahmoud Ahmadinejad did not rule out acquiring nuclear arms, however, when asked four times in an interview, dimming hopes for progress in upcoming talks

AFP , WASHINGTON

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a US television interview on Thursday that Tehran had no need of nuclear arms, but did not explicitly rule out that Iran would acquire them.

Ahmadinejad’s remarks on NBC News appeared to dampen prospects for success at a meeting in two weeks between Iran and six world powers, including the US, which have demanded Tehran halt its uranium enrichment program.

“We have always believed in talking, in negotiation. That is our logic, nothing has changed,” Ahmadinejad said in excerpts of an interview aired Thursday night on NBC television.

But, according to other remarks quoted on NBC’s Web site, Ahmadinejad said: “If you are talking about the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes, this will never be closed down here in Iran.”

He also declined to explicitly rule out Iran’s acquiring a nuclear weapon despite being asked four times to do so.

“Nuclear arms, we believe they belong to the past and the past generation,” he said through an interpreter. “We do not see any need for such weapons.”

When his interviewer suggested that viewers would not be convinced by his answers, he replied: “You can take from that whatever you want Madam.”

Given Ahmadinejad’s public remarks, chances seemed slim for progress at Iran’s talks on Oct. 1 with the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, which the EU expects will take place in Turkey.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that Iran must answer “head on” concerns about its nuclear program at the meeting, even though Tehran has so far ignored such appeals.

Clinton said the point of the meeting between Iran and the six powers is to test Tehran’s readiness to discuss such concerns.

Washington will be taking its dual track, or carrot-and-stick, approach to the meeting, Clinton said.

The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze its uranium enrichment activities and Washington has threatened to push for new sanctions if engagement with Iran fails.

The six powers, which represent the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — are offering diplomatic, trade and other benefits if Iran cooperates.

The group called for talks with Iran after Tehran handed over a set of proposals for negotiation last week. Washington expressed disappointment with the package of proposals, saying it was “not really responsive to our greatest concern,” which is the nuclear issue, but Moscow said it offered “something to dig into.”

And US President Barack Obama’s administration sees its role in the talks — the first with Iran since a one-off meeting last year under his predecessor George W. Bush — as a fulfillment of its pledge to engage the Islamic Republic.

According to a copy of the proposals obtained and published by US non-profit investigative journalism group, Pro Publica, Iran said it was prepared to hold “comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations.”

The talks would address nuclear disarmament as well as a global framework for the use of “clean nuclear energy,” according to the document, but it did not address Iran’s own nuclear program.

Iran says its program is for peaceful nuclear energy and denies charges from the US, European powers and Israel that it seeks to build a nuclear weapon under the guise of its enrichment program.

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