Iran's Ahmadinejad faults sanctions, delays nuclear talks till late August

By Thomas Erdbrink
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TEHRAN -- Iran is ready to retaliate if its vessels are searched and will postpone nuclear talks with major powers until late August in response to new international sanctions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday.

"This is a punishment for them so that they will learn the protocol of talking to other nations," Ahmadinejad said during a news conference, responding to a fourth set of U.N. Security Council sanctions against the Islamic republic, which call for searches of suspect Iranian vessels.

"Anybody who insists on implementing this will regret this very harshly," he said of such searches. "We reserve our right for retaliation and defending ourselves."

A Revolutionary Guard Corps commander on Saturday threatened that Iran might respond to such searches in the Hormuz Strait, a narrow waterway accessing the Persian Gulf, the world's biggest oil hub.

On Thursday, Congress approved harsher unilateral U.S. sanctions punishing foreign firms that provide Iran with gasoline. Because of domestic shortages, Iran currently needs to import 4.7 million gallons of gas daily.

Ahmadinejad said Iran "laughed" at such sanctions. "They think Iran is some island in the ocean," he said, stressing that the country has dealt with sanctions since the 1979 revolution.

Ahmadinejad said his country could increase its needed production within a week and is able to halve its domestic gasoline consumption within a day.

On the dormant talks over Iran's nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said Iran would not be willing to return to broad talks until about halfway through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, or late August.

He did stress that Iran was still willing to discuss a swap of nuclear fuel it needs for a research reactor that produces medical isotopes. Turkey and Brazil in May restarted talks on this issue, but the deal they struck with Tehran was turned down by the United States, which said it was an attempt to block sanctions.

Ahmadinejad said Iran has conditions for returning to broader talks, demanding that the United States and other nations state their positions on Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, vow to uphold the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and state whether they are friends or foes of Iran. He also hinted that some members of Iran's negotiating team would be changed.

"They should also know that it will not be talks between those powers and Iran any longer; other groups will be attending the talks, too," Ahmadinejad said.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company