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World powers must ‘engage’ Iran: Ahmadinejad

(AFP) / 19 December 2010

Ahmadinejad on Saturday hailed this month’s Geneva talks on Iran’s nuclear programme and reiterated that world powers should cooperate with Teheran rather than confront it.

 

‘The Geneva talks were very good and it is time that they (world powers) change the policy of confrontation to engagement,’ he said in a live interview on state television in his first reaction to the December 6 and 7 talks.

He said the ‘best way’ for the two sides was to move towards cooperation.

‘We are moving on this path and I hope in the talks in Istanbul and then Brazil and then Teheran, we will reach a framework of cooperation,’ he said, suggesting more talks may be held in Brazil and Iran after Istanbul next month.

‘This will benefit all, and everyone’s face will be saved,’ he said.

Ahmadinejad spoke on the day the Islamic republic’s atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi officially took over as interim foreign minister after Manouchehr Mottaki was sacked from the post by the president on December 13.

World powers led by Washington suspect that Iran’s nuclear programme is aimed at making atomic weapons, a charge strongly denied by Teheran.

The Geneva talks came after a 14-month hiatus and will be followed by a second round of talks in the Turkish city of Istanbul next month.

Iran’s nuclear programme has galloped ahead under Ahmadinejad’s presidency, despite four sets of UN sanctions and unilateral punitive measures imposed by the European Union and countries including the United States.

Ahmadinejad again criticised the sanctions in the interview, calling them ‘illegal levers’ against a ‘great nation like Iran.’

‘I hope we are moving towards understanding and cooperation. The people of Iran welcome cooperation’ with the world powers, he added.

As Salehi officially took the helm at the foreign ministry, he said that Teheran’s top priority will be to boost ties with regional power Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

‘Iran’s first priority in diplomacy should be neighbours and the Islamic world. In this regard, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have a special position,’ the fluent Arabic and English speaker was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.

‘Saudi Arabia deserves to have special political ties with Iran. Iran and Saudi Arabia, as two effective countries in the Islamic world, can resolve many problems together.’

Salehi’s remarks on Saudi Arabia are significant after US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed Riyadh obsessed by a threat from Iran.

King Abdullah reportedly urged top US officials to destroy Teheran’s nuclear programme, telling them ‘to cut off the head of the snake.’

Ties between Iran and Turkey have grown in recent months, with Ankara even endorsing a nuclear fuel deal for Teheran in May, along with Brazil.

Turkey is also hosting the next round of talks between Iran and the six world powers in Istanbul, following the Geneva negotiations.

Ankara has repeatedly called for sustained diplomacy to resolve the Iran nuclear controversy.

Salehi, 61, said Iran and the European Union would also ‘benefit’ if Europe switched its position towards Teheran from ‘confrontation to engagement as soon as possible.’

‘Despite some unfair moves by the European Union, this union wants respectful ties with Iran for a number of reasons, including energy,’ he said.

Salehi took over the foreign ministry at a function that was also a farewell ceremony for Mottaki. However, the 57-year-old Mottaki, who was sacked while on an official visit to Senegal, did not attend in person.

His dismissal came after he hailed as a ‘step forward’ remarks by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Iran is entitled to a peaceful nuclear energy programme.

Clinton had told the BBC that Teheran could enrich uranium for civilian purposes in the future, but only once it has demonstrated it can do so in a responsible manner and in accordance with Iran’s international obligations.

Mottaki’s comments appeared to cut across Iran’s official position, repeated almost daily, that its enrichment of uranium is non-negotiable.

Mottaki’s sacking also came just days after the Geneva talks.

 
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