Ahmadinejad: critics of Iran nuclear program 'illegitimate'

In a rambling press conference during the UN conference on nuclear nonproliferation, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that most countries support Iran's nuclear program.

Bebeto Matthews/AP
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives for a news conference, during his visit to attend the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) conference at the United Nations headquarters Tuesday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday dismissed United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s questioning of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

That’s just the result of pressure from the UN headquarters’ powerful host country, he said. And he claimed that most countries support Iran in its nuclear developments – unlike the world’s “illegitimate power structure” represented by the UN Security Council.

In a rambling, nearly two-hour-long press conference at a hotel across from the UN complex, the Iranian leader lamented the condition of women in the West and declared the US is free to seize any weapons it believes are being shipped from North Korea to Tehran.

“Weapons from North Korea to Iran?” he said in response to a question about US allegations of detected arms shipments. “I don’t understand, we don’t need arms from there.”

Noting that it is the US that is fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he added that the US might be able to use such weapons.

Nuclear haves vs. have-nots

But Mr. Ahmadinejad’s focus was on the world’s prevailing nuclear nonproliferation regime – under review this month at the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference – and his view that the current structure perpetuates the power of the world’s nuclear haves while relegating the have-nots to second-class status.

Declaring that the 40-year-old NPT has failed in its three goals of disarmament, non-proliferation, and an equitable development of peaceful nuclear energy, he said, “We need a new framework and a new set of guidelines that should be based on justice and rights of nations and human beings.”

Ahmadinejad challenged the view that much of the world opposes Iran’s nuclear ambitions, claiming that more than 100 countries from the Non-Aligned Movement and the world’s majority Muslim countries support Iran.

Despite this, Iran remains open to the idea of a nuclear fuel “swap” to power its Tehran research reactor, he said. But he cited the bad taste of historical precedent – France holding onto 50 tons of Iranian uranium, and other Western countries violating nuclear fuel accords with Iran after the Islamic revolution – to justify Iran’s wariness about the “conditions” fuel-supplying countries would put on any fuel delivery.

In any case, he said, Iran is now producing its own 20-percent-grade uranium required by the reactor, and he seemed to dismiss the continuing need for a swap of fuel in exchange for a substantial portion of Iran’s uranium stockpile.

Uranium swap involving Russia and France

The idea of the swap, first proposed by the UN’s nuclear International Atomic Energy Agency last year to involve Russian and French uranium, was born as international leaders sought a way to buy time for addressing the standoff between Iran and the international community.

“Buy time, buy time!” Ahmadinejad said, adding that in the meantime what he estimated to be 800,000 patients reliant on the medical isotopes provided by the research reactor are seeing their time slip away. “How are we supposed to work with that kind of logic?” he asked.

Known universally for advocating Israel’s destruction, Ahmadinejad instead said that Israel – which he called a militaristic state imposed on the Middle East by the West as a means of preserving its interests in the region – would self-destruct if it launched any new wars.

As for the US disclosure of the size of its nuclear weapons arsenal Monday, Ahmadinejad called it a “small step forward.” But with a faint smile he said the US was asking the world to accept its declaration as a fact, when no international inspection has been conducted to verify it.

“The US government should give the same respect to other governments,” he said, “it should trust others when they declare something.”

Maintaining his posture that any new international sanctions would not bend the Iranian "culture and civilization" into compliance with a "failed international order," Ahmadinejad offered a new perspective: that passing sanctions would actually affect President Obama more than Iran.

Saying Mr. Obama's agenda for "change" is under relentless attack from hawkish forces, the Iranian leader said a successful US push for sanctions would signal the victory of traditional US powers.


NPT 101: Is Iran violating the nuclear treaty?

NPT 101: Clash between nuclear haves and have-nots

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