Ahmadinejad: We don't fear sanctions

Iran president speaks in NY; Arab countries call on Israel to disarm.

Ahmadinejad at NPT 311 (photo credit: AP)
Ahmadinejad at NPT 311
(photo credit: AP)
NEW YORK — After months of campaigning to avert new UN sanctions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad summed up his case Tuesday and dismissed the threat of further economic penalties over his country's nuclear program.
"Experience has proven that sanctions cannot stop the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad told reporters at a hotel across from UN headquarters, where a month-long nuclear treaty conference was in its second day.
"While we do not welcome sanctions, we do not fear them either," he said. "It seems to us that the structure of the Security Council is undemocratic and unjust, and is unable to bring about security. ... This Security Council will completely lose its legitimacy."
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Despite Iran's defiance, major powers on the 15-nation United Nations Security Council appear resolved to seek further sanctions.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov said Tuesday he was "reasonably optimistic" an agreement can be reached on a fourth round of sanctions.
"I do believe the talks are slowly moving forward. There's definitely some space to bridge over. But I wouldn't over-exaggerate the differences," Ryabkov said.
Ahmadinejad argued any new sanctions would mean that US President Barack Obama had given up on his campaign to engage Iran diplomatically.
"We feel that the US government will be damaged, more than us, by those sanctions," he said. "It's very clear that if the United States starts another sanctions (regime) against Iran, it means that it's the end of Mr. Obama's effort. It means Mr. Obama's submission. It means no change will occur."
Ahmadinejad called the US disclosures Monday about its previously secretive nuclear arsenal "a positive step forward," but one that still raises questions.
"It's no pride to possess 5,000 bombs," he said. "Now, how can you have the trust of a government that announces 5,000 bombs after 60 years?"
Arab countries call on Israel to disarm
Arab countries, meanwhile, sought to turn attention to Israel on Tuesday as delegates from 189 countries debated how to stem the spread of nuclear weapons.
On the second day of the monthlong meeting at the United Nations, Arab countries reiterated calls for a nuclear-free Middle East with criticism of Israel's unacknowledged nuclear arsenal and failure to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The first day of the conference was dominated by rhetoricalcrossfire between the United States and Iran, as Ahmadinejad rejectedallegations his country was building nuclear weapons while the US saidsanctions were necessary to stop the Iranian programs.
On Tuesday, Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh expressed frustration at the lack of progress on implementing a nuclear-free Middle East, a goal that was declared in a resolution of a previous meeting of NPT signatories.
Hesaid that Israel's failure to sign the NPT and allow internationalmonitoring of its nuclear program "renders the NPT a source ofinstability in the Middle East."
Egypt has proposed that this2010 NPT conference back a plan calling for the start of negotiationsnext year on such a Mideast zone. The proposal may become a majordebating point in the monthlong session.
The United States hascautiously supported the idea while saying that implementing the ideamust wait for progress in the Middle East peace process. The positionreflected a middle ground as the Obama administration sought to satisfyArab countries while keeping the spotlight of the conference on Iran'snuclear program.
Israel: Mideast peace before nonproliferation
TheIsraeli UN mission declined to comment on the specifics of theconference, but told The Associated Press that Israel's stance onnonproliferation continues to be that an accepted political solutionfor comprehensive peace in the Middle East should first be reached.
TheNPT is formally reviewed every five years at a meeting of treatymembers — which include all the world's nations except India, Pakistan,Israel and North Korea, all of which either have confirmed or arebelieved to have nuclear weapons.
Because it requires aconsensus of all parties, including Iran, any final document would behighly unlikely to censure the Teheran government, which would blockconsensus.