Iran has warned global powers that the imposition of fresh sanctions that are in the pipeline would close the door for possible negotiations with Tehran on the Iranian nuclear issue.
“If the U.S. and its allies think they could hold the stick of sanctions and then sit and negotiate with us, they are seriously mistaken,” Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday at a press conference on the sidelines of a security conference in Turkey.
The Iranian President’s assertion coincided with hectic American-led preparations for a possible vote later this week at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on a new round of sanctions against Iran.
Following his visit to Turkey, Mr. Ahmadinejad is travelling to Tajikistan and China, a key veto-wielding participant at the UNSC. “We will talk to everyone if there is respect and fairness but if someone wants to talk to us rudely and in a domineering manner the response is known already,” Mr. Ahmadinejad asserted.
Turkey and Brazil, which presently are non-permanent members of the UNSC, are opposed to a new round of sanctions against Iran. The two countries last month played a leading role in getting Iran aboard a major confidence building agreement. Under the deal, Iran agreed to transfer 1,200 kg of its lightly enriched uranium in return for nuclear fuel rods for its Tehran based medical reactor engaged in producing isotopes to treat cancer patients. Mr. Ahmadinejad stressed that the West should not miss the opportunity for talks opened out by the Tehran declaration on a nuclear swap. “The Tehran declaration provided an opportunity for the U.S. government and its allies. We hoped and we are still hopeful that they use the opportunity well,” he said. Hardly had the ink dried on the May 17 Tehran declaration that a miffed United States circulated a new sanctions draft among UNSC members, targeting Iran.
In Turkey, Mr. Ahmadinejad criticised Russia, which apparently is backing, with qualifications, the new sanctions draft. “[The Russians] must be careful not to be beside the enemies of the Iranian people,” he said.
On his part, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is also attending the Istanbul conference said that the new resolution which was being negotiated “should not be excessive, [and] should not put Iran’s leadership, the Iranian people in a tricky situation that creates barriers on the way of development of Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy”. Besides, he said that Moscow would cooperate so that Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant that Russia is building is operational in August.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday that a nuclear swap deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil was a one-time opportunity to resolve his nation’s standoff with the West, days before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is expected to vote on new sanctions.
Mr. Ahmadinejad told reporters on the sidelines of an Asian security summit that new sanctions would be a mistake and President Barack Obama stands to lose unless he changes his policies toward Iran.
The leaders of Iran, Turkey and Brazil met in Tehran last month and proposed a deal for Iran to deposit 2,645 pounds (1,200 kg) of lightly enriched uranium in Turkey in exchange for 120 kg of fuel that it can use for its research reactor. The deal was meant to forestall Iran’s ability to produce highly enriched uranium that could be used to produce nuclear warheads.
United States officials have criticised the agreement, in part, because it does not stop Iran from continuing to enrich uranium. The U.S. also says the deal is a ploy by Iran to delay new international sanctions.
Turkey and Brazil, both non-permanent members of the UNSC, are now pressing for an open "political debate" on the broader Iranian nuclear issue before a vote on new sanctions.
"The meeting in Tehran created an opportunity for the U.S. administration and for its allies and we still hope that they will be able to use this opportunity," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in reference to the nuclear swap deal that was reached in Tehran and that aims to address international concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme. "We say that this opportunity will not be repeated."
"Unless their policies change, Mr. Obama will be the first to lose, and then the U.S. government," the Iranian President added.
UNSC expected to vote soon
The UNSC is expected to vote soon to punish Tehran for its refusal to heed demands to curb its nuclear programme. The final version of the resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, would ban Iran from pursuing "any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons", bar Iranian investment in activities such as uranium mining, and prohibit Iran from buying several categories of heavy weapons including attack helicopters and missiles.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told reporters in Istanbul "we have worked hard and consider that the resolution is practically agreed upon". President Dmitry Medvedev last week used the same phrase to characterise the position of the Security Council on Iran.
Russia has traditionally taken a softer stance on Iran, a long-time trade partner, than the West, and Putin called for any sanctions to be restrained.
Russia is not of the opinion that these resolutions should be excessive and put Iran and the Iranian leadership "not to mention the Iranian people" in an awkward position that would place barriers in the way of peaceful atomic energy, he said.
Mr. Putin also announced that the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which Russia is constructing for Iran, should come online by August.
Russia dragging its feet on Bushehr plant
Russia signed a $1 billion contract in 1995 for building the Bushehr plant, but it has dragged its feet on completing the project for years. Moscow has cited technical reasons for the delays, but analysts said Moscow has used the project to press Tehran to ease its defiance over its nuclear programme.
Complicating the relationship further is the stalled delivery of Russian modern defensive anti-air missiles.
Russia signed a 2007 contract to sell the powerful S-300 missiles to Tehran but so far has not handed them over. Russian officials have recently commented that Moscow is unwilling to further destabilise the region by delivering the S-300 missiles, which would strengthen Iran against military intervention from the West.
Hours earlier, Mr. Ahmedinejad warned Russia against supporting new sanctions on his country.
"They must be careful not to side with enemies of the Iranian nation," he said. "They should make a choice."