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Ahmadinejad Says Iran Does Not Need Nuclear Bomb

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) Sep 21, 2006
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday his country does not need and is not seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Repeatedly questioned about Iran's controversial nuclear programme during a press conference at the UN headquarters, Ahmadinejad said: "The bottom line is, we do not need a bomb, not like what others think."

Later he added: "We are not seeking a nuclear bomb, let me make that clear."

The Iranian spoke on the final day of a three day visit to New York to speak at the UN General Assembly where he also defended his country's uranium enrichment and attacked US policy.

Iran ignored a UN Security Council demand that it suspend uranium enrichment, a key stage in weapon production, by August 31. According to diplomats, the United States and its European allies have now given Iran until early October for progress in nuclear talks before they start seeking UN sanctions against Tehran.

Smiling And Confident Ahmadinejad Wraps Up Trip To New York

After three days of defending Iran's right to nuclear technology and railing against the United States, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ended a visit to New York Thursday looking relaxed and confident. The firebrand leader, flanked by heavy security, wrapped up his controversial trip by insisting in the United Nations that Iran had no intention of seeking a nuclear bomb and was willing to negotiate to end an international standoff.

"The bottom line is, we do not need a bomb. ... The time for nuclear bombs has ended," Ahmadinejad told journalists during a more than one-hour-long press conference, smiling, joking and punctuating his answers with animated hand gestures.

The three-day visit has sparked deep controversy, with the US administration anxious to avoid the kind of situation that former US president Bill Clinton found himself in in 2000, when confronted at a UN meeting by Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Much to the relief of President George W. Bush's administration, Ahmadinejad did not attend the leaders' lunch on the first day of the UN General Assembly debate, where the US president could have risked an embarrassing encounter with the Iranian leader.

An appearance at a New York think tank on Wednesday saw Jewish leaders forcing the Council on Foreign Relations to take the meeting behind closed doors.

Apologising to the people of New York for the inconvenience caused by his passing motorcade, Ahmadinejad said he regretted that the current state of relations between the United States and Iran had prevented him from meeting more people.

However much Washington regards Ahmadinejad as a threat to global security, it is obliged to allow him, as a world leader, entry to the United States to attend UN meetings at the organisation's headquarters in New York.

But even so, the Israeli delegation headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni left the assembly chamber during Ahmadinejad's speech on Tuesday in protest. The United States left only a low-ranking official to listen.

"There is no greater challenge to our values than that posed by the leaders of Iran," Livni said Wednesday. "They deny and mock the Holocaust. They speak proudly and openly of their desire to wipe Israel off the map."

Since being accused in 2003 of enriching uranium for a nuclear weapons programme, Iran has been under intense international pressure to answer the allegations.

"Under fair and just conditions, we will negotiate. We will tell everyone when the time arrives," Ahmadinejad said Thursday.

He added that talks with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana were "moving on the right path. ... Hopefully others will not disrupt the work."

But he accused the United States under President George W. Bush, who has labelled Iran part of an "axis of evil," of using the nuclear issue as a pretext to build hostility against Iran. "They're not concerned about the bomb," he said.

The two have not had diplomatic relations since shortly after the Iranian revolution in 1979.

The populist Iranian leader, who has became public enemy number one in Israel since reportedly calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and questioning the Holocaust, denied he was anti-Semitic but railed against the forces of Zionism.

He further appealed for the international system that emerged from the ashes of World War II to be radically overhauled. Earlier in the week, he accused permanent Security Council members Britain and the United States of abusing their positions.

And asked three times if Iran would stop providing weapons to the Shiite Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, he refused to answer directly, saying that Iran offered spiritual and cultural support and did not interfere in Lebanon's affairs.

When a journalist insisted he provide a straight answer, he jokingly asked if she worked for the United Nations, which insisted last month that all nations respect an arms embargo on the militia imposed after their month-long war with Israel.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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New York (AFP) Sep 21, 2006
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