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. Iranian president ridicules European nuclear offer

In his speech, Ahmadinejad (pictured) confidently asserted that the Western powers were doomed to fail. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Farhad Pouladi
Tehran (AFP) May 17, 2006
Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday ridiculed a European Union plan to offer trade and technology incentives in exchange for his country agreeing to halt sensitive nuclear work.

"They say they want to give us incentives. They think they can take away our gold and give us some nuts and chocolate in exchange," Ahmadinejad told a rally in the town of Arak.

In a confident speech carried live on state-run television, he also vowed the Islamic regime would not bow to demands it freeze uranium enrichment work -- at the centre of fears the country could acquire atomic weapons.

The president also again warned that Iran could quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and halt inspections by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"We accepted a suspension for two years," Ahmadinejad said, referring to a now-moribund deal with leading EU members Britain, France and Germany.

"This was a bitter experience for the Iranian people. The Iranians won't be bitten twice on the same spot," he told a crowd of thousands, drawing chants of "Death to America!" and "Ahmadinejad, we love you!"

Enrichment is a process that makes fuel for nuclear power reactors but can also produce the core of a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that it only wants to make reactor fuel and that this is a right enshrined by the NPT.

"We don't need incentives. There is no need to give us incentives, just don't try to wrong us," said the president during the rock festival-style rally.

The European powers are currently drawing up a package of trade and technological incentives they hope will coax Iran into voluntarily curbing its atomic ambitions.

Under the draft deal, Russia would enrich uranium on Iran's behalf, diplomats say.

The offer -- which could include helping Iran acquire a light-water nuclear reactor -- was to have been reviewed Friday in London by the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, but this meeting has been postponed.

"The reason is to allow more detailed preparations on the EU-3 proposals to Iran," a British Foreign Office spokesman told AFP in London. He added that a meeting would likely take place in the next 10 days or so.

A similar offer was made last year but also spurned by Tehran.

The Foreign Office spokesman declined to comment on Ahmadinejad's latest tough talk, saying: "He's been saying these things continuously ... and everyone knows our position."

Security Council members remain divided over how to crack down on Iran if the new offer is rejected.

Washington, along with the so-called EU-3, wants a Security Council resolution that would make a suspension legally-binding -- but Russia and China fear this would worsen tensions and open the door to military action.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad confidently asserted that the Western powers were doomed to fail.

"These bullying powers are nothing and are bound to go away because they stand in the way of truth. They will be defeated and they won't last. This is the divine tradition," he said in his speech in Arak, situated 250 kilometres (160 miles) southwest of Tehran.

Arak is also the site of a planned heavy-water reactor, another source of concern in the West.

"As long as the nation is pious, it will overcome all problems and will humiliate the enemies," said Ahmadinejad, who managed to give a rousing speech despite an apparent soar throat.

The firebrand president also repeated a warning that Iran could follow the path of North Korea.

"Don't act in a way so that countries and other people stop being a member of the NPT and finish with the agency," he warned.

Related Links

EU, US considering offering Iran nuclear reactor: diplomats
Vienna (AFP) May 17, 2006
Europe and the United States are considering helping Iran acquire a light-water nuclear reactor in return for Tehran giving up uranium enrichment on its soil as a guarantee that it will not make atomic weapons, diplomats said Tuesday.

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