Iran envoy urges world powers to treat country 'as equal'

Ahead of new talks with P5+1 countries in Istanbul, Iranian UN envoy calls on them to recognize his country as major player with "nuclear capability."

Iran Reactor 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Iran Reactor 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
UNITED NATIONS — Iran's UN envoy said Tuesday the most important thing that world powers can do at upcoming talks in Istanbul is recognize his country as major player with "nuclear capability" that is ready to cooperate on major issues including nonproliferation.
Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee warned Iran will never respond to sanctions, threats or political or economic pressure — and will "never negotiate on our inalienable right to use nuclear energy for ... peaceful purposes."
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"It doesn't mean that Iranians are looking for confrontation," he said. "But at the same time ... it's not going to work to put a knife in the neck of somebody, or your sword, and at the same time asking him to negotiate with you."
Khazaee spoke ahead of new talks on Jan. 21-22 with the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The six powers have been trying to get Iran to address growing international concerns, especially by the US and its Western allies, that it is pursuing nuclear weapons — not nuclear energy as the government insists.
Earlier in the day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Teheran is making steady progress in its "nuclear energy" program, and warned that no amount of UN Security Council resolutions will derail his country's nuclear ambitions.
"Let them issue 100,000 resolutions," Ahmadinejad told the semiofficial Fars news agency. "It's not important. Let them say what they want to."
Iran's uranium enrichment program lies at the heart of its dispute with the West because the technology can be used to produce nuclear fuel or materials for an atomic warhead. The UN Security Council slapped a fourth round of sanctions on Iran last summer over its refusal to stop enriching uranium, but Khazaee said they weren't having an impact, pointing to Iran's GDP which he said is approaching Saudi Arabia's the biggest economic power in the Mideast.
But Khazaee made clear over lunch with a group of journalists that Iran wants the Istanbul talks to focus on regional and global issues, not just its nuclear program.
A vital issue, he said, is having the six countries acknowledge that "Iran is a powerful player in the region ... and with nuclear capability." He repeated the words "nuclear capability," then paused and added "peaceful, of course."
Khazaee said the negotiations should be an opportunity for future cooperation on Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, promoting trade and energy cooperation "and working together especially in the area of disarmament and nonproliferation."
"We hope and we believe that serious and constructive negotiations without preconditions and based on justice and mutual respect is the only solution, and we think it would be a win-win strategy ... for both sides," he said.
With Iran's gas and oil reserves and growing economic power, Khazaee said, Iran is militarily, economically and politically "a heavyweight champion in the region."
Iran's nuclear work has faced a number of challenges over the past year, from malfunctioning centrifuges that spun out of control to a highly complex computer worm — known as Stuxnet — that Iran said was aimed at sabotaging its uranium enrichment program.
Khazaee blamed Israel for trying to infect Iran's computers but told reporters that according to specialists in Iran's atomic agency "they have not been successful."