Ayatollah seeks softer nuclear stance

Report: Iran's supreme leader may allow UNSC team to monitor program.

ayatollah iran 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
ayatollah iran 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is considering softening his country's defiant stance on the Iranian nuclear program in face of immense pressure from Western powers, the London-based Sunday Times reported. According to the report, sources close to the Ayatollah favor the appointment of a more moderate team for international negotiations regarding the supervision of Iran's nuclear facilities. The move would come amid rising opposition within Iran to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hawkish and often confrontational methods of challenging the West's position on Iranian nuclear development. Khamenei, who has final say over Iran's foreign policy, security and armed forces, is considering a proposal which would allow an international group made up of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to oversee and monitor the nuclear program, the report stated. Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad on Sunday defended his economic policies from domestic criticism and said recent UN Security Council sanctions would never deter the country from pursuing its nuclear program. "The (UN) resolution was delivered dead. Ten more similar resolutions will not affect our economy and our policy," the president said in a speech broacast live on state-run television as he delivered a budget for the new year. "Falsely, they want to imply that we have had costs in this regard," the president said - an apparent reference to recent news stories in the West that prices of food and other basics have risen in Iran since the UN sanctions were imposed in late December. Earlier Sunday, Iranian state-run television reportedthat Iran plans three days of military maneuvers, including short-range missile tests, beginning Sunday - its first since the UN Security Council imposed sanctions against it in late December. "The elite Revolutionary Guards plans to begin a three-day missile maneuver on Sunday near Garmsar city," said the broadcast. The city is located in northern Iran on the edge of Kavir desert, about 100 kilometers southeast of Tehran. "Zalzal and Fajr-5 missiles will be test fired in the war game," the television quoted an unnamed commander of the guards, as saying. Both are considered short-range missiles. "The maneuver is aimed at evaluating defensive and fighting capabilities of the missiles," the commander was quoted as saying. Iran conducted a total of three large-scale military exercises last year as tensions with the West and the United States rose.