But Mr. Ahmadinejad also delivered a number of broadsides against the West during a regional economic summit in Istanbul, Turkey, where the next round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers are due by the end of January.
Co-opting the US tactic of casting the Islamic Republic as having a “clear choice” on its controversial nuclear program – to stop enriching uranium that might be used for weapons, or face unspecified “consequences” – Ahmadinejad said that world powers had “two choices.”
“One [choice] is to follow the previous policies, and the results of that are clear,” said Ahmadinejad. “They [world powers] used all their resources and they were defeated. They didn’t want us to become nuclear, and now we are. It’s an irreversible trend. To follow the path of confrontation will only have one result: failure.
“The second path is the path of cooperation,” Ahmadinejad said. “That is in the interest of all parties [and] will be a win-win situation. There will not be failure or defeat for either party.” The January meeting could be “a landmark event, where we can replace confrontation with cooperation.”
Calm, but defiant
The Iranian president gave another calm performance, which has been a hallmark since he was elected in 2005 and then given a second term in contested elections in June 2009.
During his tenure and years of tough rhetoric, Iran’s nuclear program has advanced from a few hundred spinning centrifuges to well over 8,000 installed today, just under half of them working.
Iran says it only wants to peacefully produce nuclear power, which it is entitled to as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US, many in Europe, and Israel believe the program masks a nuclear weapons effort.
Ahmadinejad again chided the West Thursday for its tough approach, even though since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution his country has interpreted its “independence” by constantly focusing on anti-US and anti-Israel rhetoric, burning American flags, and leading thousands of ideologues each week to chant “Death to America!”
“For 32 years the same Western countries have chosen to follow a policy of confrontation with us, when we wanted to follow a policy of freedom in our country,” the president said. “One of the theaters of confrontation is the nuclear issue. Against international law … they wanted to stop Iran becoming a nuclear [energy] nation. They staged psychological warfare, economic sanctions and political measures to stop Iran gaining access to nuclear energy. They suffered a defeat.”
Iran feeling sanctions' pinch
Iran’s economy is feeling the pinch from four layers of UN Security Council sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to stop enriching uranium – a process to make nuclear fuel, that it refined to higher levels can also be used in bombs – until it resolves remaining questions about possible military efforts.
Ahmadinejad has always dismissed sanctions, but is under pressure inside Iran from a lackluster economy and dramatic subsidy reforms enacted last weekend that have caused critical fuel and food prices to skyrocket.
“We think these sanctions will have no effect on our decision-making process,” said Ahmadinejad, according to the official simultaneous translation of Thursday's press conference. “Those countries that talk about the effect of sanctions in the third millennium are backward and simple-minded…. So these sanctions cannot work and will fail, especially with a great nation like Iran.”
The Iranian president noted that even though Iran’s economy had been targeted, in fact European countries across the board, from the UK and Ireland to Portugal and Greece, were have to impose strict austerity measures.
“They wanted to hurt our economy; instead now it’s their own economies that are hurting,” said Ahmadinejad, according to the real-time official translator. “This is the work and the will of Allah.”