Iran freezes nuclear talks for two months

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Iran is under mounting international pressure over its controversial nuclear programme
© AFP/File Behrouz Mehri

TEHRAN (AFP) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday that Iran will penalise world powers by freezing nuclear talks for two months as he laid down several conditions for resuming the negotiations.

The hardliner said Iran wanted more countries to be involved in talks over its nuclear programme, and added that world powers must clarify Israel’s status of nuclear arsenal and what exactly they sought from the discussions.

“The negotiations (would likely occur) at the end of (the Iranian month of) Mordad,” around the end of August, Ahmadinejad said at a Tehran news conference when asked when Iran would talk to the world powers over its nuclear programme.

“We are postponing the talks because of the bad behaviour and the adoption of the new resolution in the (UN) Security Council. This is a penalty, so that they (the world powers) are disciplined to learn the way of talking to other nations.”

The UN Security Council imposed a fourth set of sanctions on Iran on June 9 for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment work, the most sensitive part of its atomic drive.

World powers led by Washington suspect that Iran is masking a weapons drive under what Tehran says is a civilian atomic programme.

But immediately after the UN sanctions the world powers — Britain, France, Russia, China, the United States and Germany — that had been negotiating with Iran called for more dialogue to resolve the crisis.

Ahmadinejad said Iran would talk with them but “other independent nations… will also take part.” He did not specify the names of the countries Iran would like to be involved in the talks.

He said the world powers must clarify what they are seeking from the talks and their “negotiators must clearly express their position on nuclear weapons possessed by the Zionist regime” Israel.

Iran’s arch-foe Israel, believed to be the sole if undeclared nuclear weapons power in the Middle East, has never ruled out a military strike against Tehran’s atomic plants in order to stop its nuclear programme.

Tehran has on several occasions demanded that Israel become member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and put its nuclear arsenal under the purview of the UN atomic watchdog.

Speaking separately on the nuclear fuel swap deal, Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to talk, “but the talks will be held on the basis of the Tehran Declaration and I don’t think there is any need to add anything to it.”

“Naturally if France, Russia and the US are coming from the other side, from this side it will be Iran, Turkey and Brazil who will participate in the talks,” Ahmadinejad said.

The fuel “exchange is a way for engagement and this is better than confrontation.”

On May 17, Iran, Turkey and Brazil signed what is now called as Tehran Declaration, a proposal which envisages shipping Iran’s low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey to be followed at a later date with the supply of high enriched uranium to Tehran from Russia and France.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has urged the West to accept a nuclear fuel deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil
© AFP/File Philippe Lopez

The West has cold-shouldered this proposal citing several concerns.

Ahmadinejad also took the opportunity to reject the remarks of the chief of the US Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, that Iran could have nuclear weapons ready to use by as early as 2012.

“We have clearly declared that the nuclear bomb belongs to politically retarded governments who lack logic,” Ahmadinejad said.

“What good is an atom bomb to anyone? The stupidest thing today is accumulating atomic weapons. They seek accomplices in the crime and Iran will not be an accomplice in their crime. We are standing firm on disarmament.”

Speaking on US television, Panetta said on Sunday that Iran has manufactured enough LEU for two atomic weapons.

He said Tehran would need a year to enrich it fully to produce a bomb, and that it would take “another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable.”

“There is a continuing debate right now about whether or not they ought to proceed with a bomb. But they clearly are developing their nuclear capability and that raises concerns,” Panetta told ABC network’s “This Week” programme.

Earlier, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Panetta’s remarks were part of a “psychological warfare” by the CIA against Iran.