Ahmadinejad praises US 'positive step'

Claims US participation in talks is step toward recognizing Iran's right to acquire nuclear technology.

ahmadinejad listens 224. (photo credit: AP)
ahmadinejad listens 224.
(photo credit: AP)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday praised US participation in the latest round of nuclear talks with Teheran, describing it as a "positive step forward." Ahmadinejad also called it a step toward recognizing Iran's right to acquire nuclear technology. The Iranian president said the United States' decision to attend the talks in Geneva, Switzerland, will help repair America's image in the world. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran of not being serious in Saturday's talks despite the presence of a senior US diplomat. The United States and its Western allies accuse Iran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons and demand that it freeze uranium enrichment. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and Ahmadinejad on Wednesday again vowed Iran will not "retreat one iota" from pursuing it. The US participation in the Geneva talks had raised expectations for a compromise formula under which Iran would agree to stop expanding its enrichment activities. In exchange, the six powers - the United States and five world powers - would hold off on adopting new UN sanctions against Iran. The enrichment issue is key to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program because the activity can produce either fuel for nuclear power stations or material used in the fissile core of warheads. Iran already has defied three sets of UN sanctions over its uranium enrichment activity. But recent Iranian pronouncements suggest the Islamic Republic may be looking to improve ties with the United States, with officials speaking positively of deliberations by the Bush administration to open an interests section in Teheran after closing its embassy here decades ago. On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad said US Undersecretary of State William Burns, who represented the United States in the Geneva talks, "spoke politely and in a dignified manner." "You (US) took a positive step. It was a step toward recognizing the rights of the Iranian nation, toward justice, toward repairing your image in the world, toward cleaning 50 years of crimes you committed against the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said, addressing thousands of supporters in Yasouj, a town in southern Iran. Rice has said all six nations were serious about a two-week deadline for Iran to agree to freeze suspect activities and start negotiations or be hit with new penalties. But Ahmadinejad urged the United States to continue its "positive" attendance in the talks. "I advise you not to ruin the positive step you took through irrelevant words and claims."