Ahmadinejad: West failed to stop nuclear program

But Iran's FM says Teheran will negotiate incentives deal; Senate panel toughens sanctions on Teheran.

iran nuclear 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
iran nuclear 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday the West failed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear program, even as the country's foreign minister said Teheran was considering an international offer of incentives on the controversial issue. Ahmadinejad's remarks were his first since the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany offered Iran the new incentives package to suspend uranium enrichment. "In the nuclear case, bullying powers applied all their power, but they could not break the will of the Iranian nation," state radio quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in a speech to clerics in the city of Qom. However, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced on Thursday Iran was prepared to negotiate with the West over a package of incentives to stop uranium enrichment. Speaking at a Uganda gathering of Foreign Ministers from Muslim states, Mottaki added that his country hoped world powers would consider accepting Teheran's suggested solutions to the conflict surrounding its nuclear program. "We told them of our readiness to negotiate," he said at the press conference. "The sanctions package that we received is under consideration, and at the appropriate time, Teheran will give its response." When the package was originally presented, Iran declared that it would not negotiate on any package that included freezing its nuclear program. On Wednesday night, a US Senate panel approved legislation to toughen US sanctions on Iran in a bid to get it to halt its nuclear program. The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill to increase trade and financial sanctions by 19-2, and the House of Representatives passed similar legislation last year. The move would reinforce existing US sanctions by extending the trade ban on goods to and from Iran. For example, it would prohibit the import of Iranian carpets, caviar, and nuts to the US. The bill also would increase financial sanctions on some Iranian individuals, and punish US firms if their subsidiaries do business with Iran. Both the House and Senate bills would also urge Russia to stop assisting Iran's nuclear program by banning the US from entering into a civilian nuclear agreement with Moscow until it halts the assistance. This is likely to irritate US President George W. Bush, who wants a civilian nuclear accord with Moscow. Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus said, "The strong sanctions we've approved today will work to deter the Iranian government from producing a nuclear weapon," Reuters reported.