Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warns West not to miss last Iran nuclear 'opportunity'
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a possible Iran nuclear fuel swap is a one-time opportunity that could be squandered if the UN approves a fourth round of Iran sanctions this week.
On the eve of an expected United Nations Security Council vote for new sanctions against Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned world powers against jeopardizing a one-time “opportunity” to engage Iran on its nuclear program.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Nuclear Weapons
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“The US government and its allies are mistaken if they think they can brandish the stick of [a] resolution and then sit down to talk with us – such a thing will not happen,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said during a regional security summit taking place in Istanbul this week.
Still on the table, but with a muted response from the West so far, is a nuclear fuel swap deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil in Tehran on May 17. In the deal, Iran would send about half its homemade low-enriched uranium to Turkey, and receive higher-enriched reactor fuel from a third party, which has not yet been named.
The deal, which does not require Iran to comply with UN resolutions against further enrichment, is meant as a confidence-building step toward resolving questions about whether Iran's nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.
“The meeting in Tehran created an opportunity for the US administration and for its allies … and we still hope that they will be able to use this opportunity,” the Iranian president said. “[T]hat opportunity will not be repeated.”
Iranian officials have sent mixed messages in recent weeks about whether a fourth round of sanctions would prompt it to cancel the fuel swap. The Iranian president’s comments did not explicitly rule out continuing with the swap if the sanctions vote goes ahead. Turkish diplomats say privately Iran must to follow through to avoid further isolation.
UN poised to approve fourth round of sanctions
The 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC) is expected to support a new round of sanctions against Iran, although Turkey, Brazil, and Lebanon are not likely to vote in favor of the resolution. They argue that previous sanctions have failed to alter Iran’s nuclear drive.
The US has spearheaded the months-long diplomatic effort to impose the sanctions – this time widening the net against companies, institutions, and senior figures and officers in Iran linked to nuclear and missile programs. Reportedly named in the annex of the draft resolution is Mojtaba Khamenei, the most powerful son of Iran’s supreme religious leader, who played a key role in the violent suppression of opposition protests after Iran’s disputed presidential elections last year.
Speaking in Istanbul, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the latest set of sanctions were “practically agreed upon,” and diplomats have told reporters that a vote could come Wednesday after further closed-door meetings at the UN later Tuesday.
“Our point of view is that these decisions should not be excessive and should not put the Iranian people in a complicated position which would put up barriers on the path to peaceful nuclear energy,” Mr. Putin said.
Iran has long counted on Russia – which is building Iran’s first nuclear power reactor at Bushehr in a $1 billion project – as well as China to shield it from more stringent UNSC sanctions. Both countries can veto any UNSC resolution. But Russia-Iran ties have cooled this spring – the latest casualty in Iran's history of alienating allies.