Ahmadinejad warns against U.N. sanctions

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 4, 2010; 8:55 PM

NEW YORK -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Tuesday that any prospects of normalizing ties between Washington and Tehran will vanish if the United States succeeds in securing U.N. sanctions against Iran.

The Iranian leader also accused Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of shouting "insults" at his country before the U.N. General Assembly and said the United States is abusing its power in a fruitless effort to deny Iran its legal right to develop a nuclear energy program.

Speaking at a news conference at the Millennium Hotel, across the street from the United Nations, Ahmadinejad denied that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and blamed the United States for launching the nuclear arms race. "The first resolution passed against Iran in the U.N. Security Council will mean that relations between Iran and the United States will never be improved," Ahmadinejad said. "Paths to that will be shut."

Ahmadinejad, who is in New York to attend a U.N. conference on nuclear nonproliferation, spent much of the past 24 hours seeking to counter criticism of Iran's nuclear activity by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Clinton, whom he called "an enemy of Iran" on PBS's "Charlie Rose Show."

In his opening remarks to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Ban scolded Iran for failing to comply with U.N. obligations to stop enriching uranium and to negotiate in good faith with the United States and other powers. "The onus is on Iran to clarify the doubts and concerns about its program," Ban said.

Ahmadinejad said Ban would not have spoken with so little respect if Tehran were a world power like the United States. Still, he said, he was prepared to seek a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff. He said he would hold talks in Tehran later this month with the leaders of Brazil and Turkey, two nonpermanent members of the Security Council, on a proposal aimed at ensuring foreign control over its uranium.

The International Atomic Energy Agency first proposed the plan, known as the fuel swap, in October, but after initially agreeing to accept the deal it abruptly refused to proceed with talks. The plan called for Iran to ship its low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for a more purified grade of uranium suitable for use in a research reactor that produces medical isotopes. Iran announced last month that it has succeeded in enriching its uranium to the 20 percent-purity level required for fueling the medical reactor.

"We have said that we are ready to engage in a swap of fuel, and we feel that if the other party shows even a minimum level of sincerity, we can resolve the impasse and the swap will happen," he said. The Iranian leader said that even though Iran doesn't need the more highly enriched uranium, he is prepared to entertain a deal to "show our sincerity."

An agreement on a fuel swap would complicate U.S. efforts to maintain support for sanctions. Russia and China agreed to pursue sanctions only after Iran rebuffed their appeals to accept a similar deal. U.S. and European officials have voiced skepticism over Tehran's latest offer.

"Iran has a history of making confusing, contradictory, and inaccurate statements designed to convey the impression that it has adopted a flexible attitude toward the proposal," Clinton told reporters Monday. " But we have seen no indication that Iran is willing to accept the IAEA's October proposal."

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