Ahmadinejad demands US 'apology'

Rice: IAEA report gives "excellent reasons" to press sanctions; Israel: Iran continuing to flout UN.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, AP, WASHINGTON
February 23, 2008 22:10
4 minute read.
Ahmadinejad demands US 'apology'

Rice 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the US and its allies Saturday to "apologize" to Iran for accusing it of seeking nuclear weapons. He said the International Atomic Energy Agency report released Friday vindicated Iran and warned that Teheran would take unspecified "decisive reciprocal measures" against any country that imposed additional sanctions against his country. The IAEA report said many past questions about Iran's nuclear program had been resolved, but highlighted Teheran's continued refusal to halt uranium enrichment. "The best way for them [the US and its allies] to compensate for their mistakes... [is] to apologize and pay compensation," Ahmadinejad said in a televised address to the nation. "If they continue [to pursue sanctions}, we have definitely drawn up reciprocal measures," he said. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday there is a "very strong case" for further sanctions against Iran and that she expected a move toward a third UN Security Council resolution "with some dispatch." The IAEA report, which found Iran had not been entirely forthright about details of its nuclear program, helped make the case for expanding sanctions, Rice told a press conference here. Until now, those efforts have floundered. Pointing to Iran's continued enrichment of uranium in defiance of the international community, among other infractions, Rice said, "This report demonstrates that whatever the Iranians may be doing to try to clean up some elements of the past, it is inadequate. "This is just good reason to move forward with the Security Council resolution," she said. Rice spoke ahead of a meeting among senior diplomats from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany scheduled to discuss the new resolution on Monday in Washington. The six have agreed on a draft package that slightly expands and strengthens previous penalties but is weaker than the US had wanted. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns will represent the United States at the meeting. There was "all the more reason now for the Security Council to pass a third sanctions resolution," he said Friday. The US wants the Security Council to begin debate next week. Burns would not predict how long debate would last and would not rule out that the current package of proposed sanctions might change. Burns is the top US negotiator on a carrot-and-stick package that has been proposed in the past by the Security Council, plus Germany. Iran has rebuffed the offer and has brushed off the Security Council's penalties. Iran's trade partners and sometime allies on the council, Russia and China, which hold Security Council veto power, oppose harsh measures. Burns said the new round of sanctions would pinch Iran, and argued that failing to act would make the Security Council look weak. Officials in Jerusalem said the IAEA report confirmed fears in Israel and the international community that Iran was continuing its drive to obtain nuclear weapons. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the UN nuclear watchdog report provided further proof that Teheran was enriching uranium and carrying out other activities in defiance of Security Council resolutions. The IAEA report noted that Iran was also pursuing a weaponization policy. Israel believes that in light of Teheran's continuing obstruction of the work of IAEA inspectors and defiance of Security Council resolutions, the international community should step up sanctions to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. At Friday's press conference, Rice also addressed the situation in the Gaza Strip, saying the US was "very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza" and would be making more resources available there, though she didn't specify what kind. She emphasized, though, that Hamas was responsible for the rocket attacks on Israel and was "the real problem" there. She said she expected Gaza, as well as work on furthering the US-backed peace effort between Israelis and Palestinians, to be addressed in her meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert next week, during her trip to Japan. She said she also planned to travel to Libya before the end of her term in office next winter. After more than three decades of enmity between Muammar Gaddafi's Libya and the United States, Gaddafi renounced terrorism and his weapons of mass destruction programs and Libya was removed from the US list of terror-exporting states in 2005. Full diplomatic relations were restored, although the US has been unable to persuade the Senate to confirm an ambassador to head its embassy. "I still expect that I will go to Libya," Rice said. "I expect that we'll continue to have to talk about difficult things: human rights, terrorism." But, she added, "When you have a major strategic shift of the kind that Libya has made, you want there to be some affirmation of the importance of having done that." That was coming through increased participation in Libya by American and European companies, she said. She also ruled out the possibility that she would be a vice presidential candidate in November's election, a suggestion political observers have suggested Republican front-runner John McCain might pursue. "I have always said that the one thing that I have not seen myself doing is running for elected office in the United States," she said at a news conference to discuss her recent trip to Africa. "I didn't even run for high school president. It's sort of not in my genes." Instead, Rice told reporters, "You can all come and visit me in California." Rice has said she plans to return to Stanford University, where she served as provost and taught as a political science professor. She said she was looking forward to making her choice for president as a voter after being involved in President George W. Bush's 2000 campaign and having a strong interest in his 2004 re-election. "I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing as secretary of state to see if we can use the last few months, as the president has put it, to sprint to the finish, because there's a lot of work to do," Rice said. Mark Weiss contributed to this report


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