Iran Proposes Control System Aimed at Eliminating Nuclear Weapons

By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, September 10, 2009; 6:25 PM

TEHRAN, Sept. 10 -- Iran is not prepared to discuss halting its uranium enrichment program in response to Western demands but is proposing instead a worldwide control system aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top political aide said in an interview Thursday.

The Web site ProPublica obtained a copy of the set of proposals handed to the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany on Wednesday, in which Iran also offered cooperation in solving problems in Afghanistan and fighting terrorism, as well as collaboration on oil and gas projects, Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said. A longtime confidant of Ahmadinejad, Samareh Hashemi is considered the president's closest aide and is reportedly under consideration for appointment as first vice president, a key post in Ahmadinejad's new government.

As described by Samareh Hashemi, Iran's offer is similar to a call by President Obama in April to eliminate the world's nuclear weapons. At the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting later this month, Obama is scheduled to chair a special U.N. session aimed at seeking broad consensus on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons rather than on targeting individual nations such as Iran and North Korea. Ahmadinejad is also scheduled to attend the U.N. meeting and has said he is ready to debate Obama in front of the world media.

"It's not really responsive to our greatest concern, which is obviously Iran's nuclear program," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of Tehran's package of proposals. "Iran reiterated its view that as far as it is concerned, its nuclear file is closed. . . . That is certainly not the case. There are many outstanding issues."

But Crowley did not shut the door completely. He said the United States was consulting with its other negotiating partners: Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. "We'll be looking to see how ready Iran is to actually engage, and we will be testing that willingness to engage in the next few weeks," he said.

France said Thursday it is studying the proposals along with the other P5-plus-one members. Russia said it hopes negotiations with Iran will resume in the near future.

The negotiating group, known as the P5-plus-one because it includes the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, has sought unsuccessfully since 2006 to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear program. The group wants Iran to abandon its program to enrich uranium, which Iran insists it needs to ensure an independent source of fuel for nuclear power plants. Highly enriched uranium can also be used in nuclear weapons, however, leading the United States and other Western nations to suspect that Iran secretly plans to divert the material to a weapons program.

Earlier this year, the group offered to provide economic and security benefits to Iran in return for suspension of Tehran's enrichment activity and international oversight. The proposals delivered Wednesday amounted to Iran's counteroffer.

In the interview, Samareh Hashemi called Washington's Iran policy a "paradox" and said it was influenced by "Zionists." He refused to confirm or deny that the Obama administration has sent two secret letters to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying only that he would "respond later" to questions about the matter.

The top presidential aide said the United States has not submitted any request to open a consular office or interests section in Tehran, an idea that was floated in Washington last year. "If such a request comes, we will study it positively," he said.

He said Iran has given the United States "practical proposals" in the past to improve relations, including a request for direct airline flights between Tehran and New York. "But the Americans gave no response," he said.

Samareh Hashemi also called on the United States to apologize for "interfering in Iran's election and other instances of meddling," attacked America's two-party political system and denounced "liberal democracy" in Western nations. "Both the internal and external signs of this Western liberal democracy show that it's approaching defeat and collapse," he said.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company