US rejects Bush-Admadinejad debate

IAEA chief says next several weeks crucial in resolving Iran's nuclear issue.

Iran Nuclear 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Iran Nuclear 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The White House on Tuesday dismissed the idea of a televised debate between President George W. Bush and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, describing the proposal as a diversion. Spokeswoman Dana Perino said, "I'd refer you back to what the president, Secretary Rice, and others have said about the Iranian regime knowing what it has to do to engage constructively with international community." "We've said we are willing to talk to Iran in the context of positive response to the P5+1 package," she said referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - and Germany. "Talk of a debate is just a diversion from the legitimate concerns that the international community, not just the US, has about Iran's behavior, from support for terrorism to pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability." Perino said, "Iran may want to look first to allowing free expression and open debate within its borders, as opposed to the current practice of crushing dissent." Ahmadinejad had proposed having a televised debate with US President George W. Bush on world issues. Reacting to Ahmadinejad's comments, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said, "What we are seeing is continued statements of defiance and continued rejection of what is not only the will of the international community but is in the interest of the Iranian people as well." The US official said it was unfortunate that Iran was not taking a "positive opportunity" offered by the United States and European allies for resolving the dispute over uranium enrichment. Iran's hard-line president on Tuesday challenged the authority of the UN Security Council, two days before the council's deadline demanding Tehran stop uranium enrichment. "When we want to talk with a friendly country, we speak under clear circumstances. And talks with those who every day show an angry face to our nation requires other conditions. If conditions are met, yes," he said. He did not specify what conditions would be needed to hold talks. "The US and Britain are the source of many tensions. At the Security Council, where they have to protect security, they enjoy the veto right. If anybody confronts them, there is no place to take complaints to," Ahmadinejad said during a press conference. "This (veto right) is the source of problems of the world. ... It is an insult to the dignity, independence, freedom and sovereignty of nations," he said. Ahmadinejad said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is expected in Iran on Saturday, also has to "move within the framework of international regulations." "No one has a special right or advantage," he said. He also said Israel's creation is a "tale" and called the Jewish state a threat to peace and stability in the Middle East. "The Zionist regime has deprived the Palestinian nation and other nations of the region of a single day of peace. In the past 60 years, it has imposed tens of wars on the Palestinian nation and others," he said. At the press conference, Ahmadinejad said that no one could prevent Iran from pursuing a peaceful nuclear program. Meanwhile on Tuesday evening Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a visiting Japanese official that the next several weeks will be crucial in resolving Iran's nuclear issue, Japan's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. ElBaradei made the remarks in a meeting with Japanese Senior Vice Foreign Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda in Vienna, the ministry said in a statement. The ministry also quoted ElBaradei as telling Kaneda that Iran's nuclear issue must be dealt with carefully so the country won't follow in the footsteps of North Korea, which has withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and expelled IAEA inspectors. ElBaradei said it may be difficult for Tehran to halt uranium enrichment because of its domestic situation, but that the international community is unanimously opposed to Iran's developing nuclear weapons, the ministry said. Earlier on Tuesday, an Iranian senior official said Teheran would pursue nuclear activities, despite international pressure and invited Western companies to bid for tenders to build nuclear plants, a news agency reported. "We have had ... another 21 thousand megawatts of nuclear power plants approved by the parliament that will be built in the next 20 years," Seyed Ala'addin Barojerdi, chairman of Iran's Parliament National Security and Foreign Affairs Commission, was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama. "(The) international tenders for building of two of these nuclear power plants have been so far presented and we would be willing to see the Western companies participate in these projects." If there are no takers, he said the Iranian government would undertake the projects on its own. "This is not a trend that could be stopped and we shall definitely (be) involved in the construction of what we do need for ourselves" in the future, he said after meeting Malaysian parliament officials.