Indonesia Offers to Mediate Talks With Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reviews an honor guard in Jakarta on a 3-day trip to Indonesia.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reviews an honor guard in Jakarta on a 3-day trip to Indonesia. (By Ed Wray -- Associated Press)
By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, May 11, 2006

JAKARTA, Indonesia, May 10 -- The president of Indonesia, hosting his Iranian counterpart on a state visit, offered Wednesday to mediate the Islamic republic's deadlock with the United States and European Union over its nuclear program.

"We can cooperate well in reducing the tension and move toward continuing talks and negotiations," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said after a 90-minute meeting with the Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yudhoyono told reporters he believed that Iran was open to negotiating a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

Ahmadinejad was welcomed to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, with a 21-gun salute. Officials said his main aim was to develop economic ties.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Ahmadinejad complained that the United States and other Western nations have developed nuclear technology but want to prevent other countries from doing so. "They pretend that they are concerned about the nature of the nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said. "This is a big lie."

He said that the Iranian people "are not just defending their own rights, but also those of other nations." The Western nations, he said, want to prevent other countries from "reaching the pinnacle of science and technology."

Iran says that its program is devoted exclusively to generating electricity, but the United States and European countries have said they believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon.

The United States wants the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution with an implicit threat of sanctions against Iran. But Russia and China have opposed such a move. On Tuesday, Britain, France and Germany, backed by the United States, said they were preparing a package of incentives and sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program.

Ahmadinejad told reporters here that he was not "disquieted" by Washington's dismissal of an 18-page letter that he sent to President Bush outlining grievances against the United States and urging a turn toward religion. "If they choose not to answer our question, it depends on them," Ahmadinejad said.

The letter was the first personal communication from an Iranian president to his American counterpart since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Bush administration said the letter failed to address the nuclear issue in a substantive way.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Noer Hassan Wirajuda, referring to Iran's nuclear program, told reporters that Indonesia wanted Iran "to be more transparent" and added that the program should fulfill the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog. He also said that developing nuclear energy was "a basic right for every country."

[In a stop Thursday in Jakarta, Ahmadinejad lashed out again at Israel, calling it a "regime based on evil," the Associated Press reported. He told a crowd of students that the Jewish state "cannot continue and one day will vanish."]

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