Iranian president pledges mass atomic-fuel production

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed on Friday that Iran would pursue its contested nuclear programme until it could mass-produce atomic fuel, and branded those trying to stop it as ”bullies”.

”We intend to continue our activity … until we manage industrial-scale production of nuclear fuel for our atomic power stations,” Ahmadinejad said, according to a text of his speech at a regional summit in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian president’s comments in the Azeri capital Baku came as Western powers, which fear Tehran is concealing a drive for atomic weapons, push for a tough United Nations resolution requiring it to halt uranium enrichment or face possible sanctions.

Ahmadinejad told leaders from the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) — which includes five of Iran’s neighbours — that ”certain bullies are insolently trying to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries”.

The speech was made behind closed doors, but a copy of the text was obtained by Agence France-Presse.

Ahmadinejad hailed his country’s nuclear power drive as ”a great achievement for the whole region and the Islamic world”.

He stressed Iran’s desire to work within international law and under the scrutiny of the UN’s watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, which last week reported that Tehran had failed to comply with a demand to halt uranium enrichment.

”Our scientific progress serves the interest of peace and does not threaten a single state,” he said. ”All the unfounded statements made against Iran cannot influence the will of the Iranian people.”

Ahmadinejad was in Baku for a regional development summit of the 10-nation ECO Group, which includes Iran’s neighbours Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Ahmadinejad called for regional support, saying that ”the constructive cooperation of ECO is a very important step. Unfortunately there is injustice in the current international structures, the violation of laws, the violation of rights.”

Ahmadinejad was due to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the summit, and earlier held talks with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.

The United States and Europe allege that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weaponry under cover of a civilian power network currently being built with Russian help.

A draft UN Security Council resolution put forward by Britain and France would legally oblige Iran to comply with UN demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, the process which makes the fuel for reactors but what can also be the explosive core of an atom bomb.

Under the proposed resolution, sanctions, and even a military assault, could be authorised in the case of non-compliance.

Iran says it needs enriched uranium as fuel for its civilian programme and refuses to halt the work.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, said that Erdogan would use his meeting with Ahmadinejad to urge compromise.

”All of us should make efforts for peace. We should insist on diplomatic means and find a compromise,” he said.

Iran’s neighbours are nervous about the potential fallout in the region of sanctions or any other deterioration. ”The most difficult situation will be for neighbouring countries,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, said Thursday. — AFP



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Sebastian Smith
Sebastian Smith
AFP White House correspondent. Previously Rio, NYC, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, Paris -- and a couple years at sea.

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