Iran’s hard-line president on Wednesday ridiculed President Barack Obama’s new nuclear strategy, which turns the U.S. focus away from the Cold War threats and instead aims to stop the spread of atomic weapons to rogue states or terrorists.
Mr. Obama on Tuesday announced the new strategy, including a vow not to use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them. Iran, however, was pointedly excluded from that pledge, along with North Korea, because Washington accuses them of not cooperating with the international community on non-proliferation standards.
U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the focus would now be on terror groups such as al-Qaeda as well as North Korea’s nuclear build-up and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Pressuring Iran in its standoff with the West is a particular focus of the new strategy. The exception from the non-use pledge represents a warning to Tehran. But also, the new guidelines aim to show Washington is serious about reducing its own arsenal and about gathering world support for stricter safeguards against nuclear proliferation - a move aimed at further isolating Iran diplomatically.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derided Mr. Obama on Wednesday, depicting him as an ineffective leader influenced by Israel to target Iran more aggressively.
“American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech before a crowd of several thousands in north-western Iran.
“Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in the speech, aired live on state TV.
Mr. Ahmadinejad said Mr. Obama “is under the pressure of capitalists and the Zionists” and vowed Iran would not be pushed around. “(American officials) bigger than you, more bullying than you, couldn’t do a damn thing, let alone you,” he said, addressing Mr. Obama.
The United States and its allies accuse Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge denied by Iran, which says its nuclear programme is intended only to generate electricity.
Washington is heading a push for the United Nations to impose new sanction on Iran over its refusal to suspect uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or the material for a warhead. Iran says it has a right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
The United States has been trying to win Iranian acceptance of a U.N.-backed proposal to swap enriched uranium in hopes of getting enough of the material out of Iran’s hands that it would be unable to produce a warhead. Under the U.N. plan, put forward last year, Iran was to send 2,420 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium abroad, where it would be further enriched to 20 percent and converted into fuel rods. They would then be returned to Iran to use in a research reactor.
Iran has balked on some terms of the deal, which has seemed all but dead.
But Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki contended on Wednesday that Iran had reached an understanding with the West on a compromise over the deal.
Mr. Mottaki said Iran proposed that it put a quantity of its low-enriched uranium under U.N. supervision inside Iran during the months it would take for the West to generate the equivalent amount of 20 percent- enriched uranium. Then the material would be swapped simultaneously.
“We want to make sure that nuclear fuel will be delivered. If there is a political will, Iran’s flexibility will facilitate a deal,” he told a press conference.
He also said Iran would determine how much would be swapped. “During talks, they agreed that Iran will determine the amount it needs,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from U.S. or European officials or from the U.N. nuclear watchdog over Mr. Mottaki’s comments.
Uranium enriched to a low level, around 3.5 percent, can be used to fuel a reactor. If enriched to around 95 percent, however, it can be used in building a nuclear bomb.
Iran began enriching uranium to around 20 percent in February over objections from the U.S. and its allies. Iran says it needs it for the research reactor, which produces radio isotopes used in cancer treatment. It says more than 850,000 people need the isotopes and radiography materials produced by the Tehran reactor for their illnesses.