Iran prepares proposals for nuke dispute

Ahmadinejad boasts resistance, progress in nuclear technology forced US to retreat from its stance.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Top US and European diplomats met in Washington Wednesday to plan strategy on Iran's nuclear program, hours after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated he is willing to build a new relationship with America. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met for talks on Iran soon after Ahmadinejad said he was open to finding new ways to deal with the United States. The Iranian leader announced that he was preparing new proposals aimed at breaking the impasse with the West over his country's nuclear program. In a speech before an audience of thousands in the southeastern Iranian city of Kerman, Ahmadinejad said "circumstances have changed" for the prospects of engagement with the United States and over the nuclear issue. "The Iranian nation is a generous nation," he said. "It may forget the past and start a new era, but any country speaking on the basis of selfishness will get the same response the Iranian nation gave to Mr. Bush." "We're going to be discussing that," Clinton told reporters at the State Department of the Iran issue, adding that the six nations trying to lure Teheran back to the negotiating table would have more to say in the coming days. Those countries, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, asked Solana last week to invite Iran to a new round of talks. Solana said he had not yet received a formal response from Iran to the invitation and declined to comment on Ahmadinejad's comments. Solana also met Wednesday with Dennis Ross, the US special envoy concentrating on Iran policy. Officials said Ross would travel to the Gulf and visit some of the Islamic republic's neighbors toward the end of the month to discuss new American thinking on Iran. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration was drafting proposals that would drop the long-standing American insistence that Teheran rapidly shut down nuclear facilities during the early phases of negotiations over its nuclear program. The Times quoted officials involved in talks between the US and European countries geared at solidifying a Western position vis-à-vis the regime in Teheran. In response, State Department spokesman Robert Wood told a reporter "I saw the story, but I'm just laying out for you what our position is." While Israel has made it clear it believes the US should place a timeline on its dialogue with the Iranians so that Teheran does not use the period of the talks to continue developing its nuclear program, it has not publicly commented about whether it believes the talks should be conditioned on Iran's stopping uranium enrichment. "We have not taken public stand on the matter," one Israeli government official said. Another government official responded to reports that Iran sent a letter to the UN Security Council president protesting Israeli threats against its nuclear facilities by saying that "the problem is Iranian hostility to Israel, not vice versa." Iran's ambassador to the UN filed a complaint with the Security Council against Israel on Tuesday, claiming the Jewish state plans to attack the Islamic republic's nuclear facilities. Muhammad Hazai wrote a letter to Mexico's Claude Heller, who holds the council's rotating presidency, insisting that Israel, by allegedly threatening to attack Iran, had violated the UN Charter, and called on the international body to respond. Hazai was seemingly responding to recent comments by Israeli officials, including President Shimon Peres and IDF Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel, implying that Israel had the capability to carry out such an attack if needed. "Ahmadinejad recruits forces against us, but there are also forces against him," Peres said in an interview with Kol Hai Radio on Sunday. Peres went on to say that he hoped US President Barack Obama's call for dialogue with Ahmadinejad would be heeded, but warned that if such talks don't soften the Iranian president's approach, "We'll strike him." The Obama administration is conducting a review of Iran policy as it gauges Teheran's responses to the US decision to return to the talks, recent encounters between US and Iranian diplomats and Obama's March video address to the Iranian people. US officials said they were watching Iran's reactions closely and that positive responses were likely to lead to a next step that would ease rules regarding contacts with Iranian diplomats abroad. "We're willing to have a direct dialogue with Iran," State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood said after Ahmadinejad's latest remarks. "If they come up with some new package with regard to their nuclear program, we'll have to take a look and see what it is." In related news, a top adviser and aide to Ahmadinejad has resigned, less than two months ahead of the presidential election, Iran official state news agency IRNA reported. Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi submitted his resignation, which is yet to be accepted by Ahmadinejad, on Tuesday, IRNA said. "Allow me to submit my resignation in order to have an opportunity to serve in other areas," Samareh Hashemi said in his letter carried by IRNA. He has been an adviser to Ahmadinejad since he swept to power in 2005. Iranians vote on June 12 and Ahmadinejad has yet to officially announce his candidacy.