TEHRAN (AFP) – World powers have no option but to talk with Iran over its nuclear programme, hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday in defiant comments ahead of next month’s negotiations.
“We said from the start that the best way is to talk to Iran. You don’t have any other option. All other ways are blocked,” said Ahmadinejad, commenting for the first time since the dates for the negotiations between the six world powers and Iran were fixed.
The six world powers — the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany — are to hold talks with Iran from November 15 to 18 to address Western concerns over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The powers led by Washington suspect Iran is masking a weapons drive under the guise of what it says is a purely civilian atomic programme.
The talks have been deadlocked since October 2009 when the two groups met in Geneva.
Ahmadinejad, under whose presidency Iran’s nuclear programme has galloped ahead, stressed that the talks must be based on “mutual justice and respect” and that the world powers must respect Tehran’s pre-conditions.
The hardliner has repeatedly insisted that the world powers answer whether they are committed to the rules of the UN atomic watchdog and whether they want to cooperate or instead “pull a trick” on Iran.
He also demands that international powers abide by “logic” and express their views on Israel’s atomic weapons. The Jewish state is widely recognised as the sole if undeclared nuclear weapons power in the Middle East.
Speaking Sunday in the northwestern city of Ardebil in an address broadcast live on state television, Ahmadinejad indicated that the response of world powers to these conditions could influence the direction of the November talks.
“We would like to know your logical and lawful opinion” on these conditions, said Ahmadinejad to a cheering and whistling crowd.
“You may keep silent, but silence to us means that you are… backing the Zionist regime’s atom bombs and that you are not seeking friendship through talks.
“Feel free to make a choice. But talks on this second path (keeping silent on Iran’s conditions) will not yield anything, but what you have gained so far. You won’t get anything more,” a defiant Ahmadinejad added.
Iran has repeatedly argued that arch-foe Israel must join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which Tehran is a signatory.
Israel, like Washington, has not ruled out a military strike against Iran to stop its nuclear programme.
Ahmadinejad stressed that Iran would not give up any of its rights.
“After four or five months they realised that nobody in the country is willing to back down an iota on its international rights,” he told the cheering crowd.
On June 9, the UN Security Council imposed its fourth set of sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment programme, the most sensitive part of its controversial nuclear programme.
The UN sanctions were followed by further unilateral measures by several countries, including the United States, targeting Iran’s vital energy sector.
All four sets of UN sanctions have been imposed on Iran since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005.