Iran dismisses proposal to halt nuclear program

President likens offer of light-water reactor to enticement of child

May 18, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's president has rejected the latest offer from Europe to halt uranium enrichment in exchange for incentives, including a light-water reactor, likening the proposal to an adult's deceptive enticement to a naive child.

"Your incentives are definitely not more valuable than nuclear technology," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday during a speech in the central city of Arak. "How dare you tell our people to give up its gold in return for chocolate?"

In his speech, reported by the news agency ISNA, he also said: "I declare that our people do not need your assistance for development. If you have anything, keep it for yourself and just do not harm us."

In another part of his speech, Ahmadinejad ridiculed the offer, saying, "Do you think you are dealing with a kid and can take away his gold for a few walnuts?"

Fear of weapons

The European plan has not been made final yet, but diplomats have said that it will offer to provide Iran with a light-water reactor, which could not easily be adapted to make weapons, in return for halting construction of its heavy-water reactor.

Iran rejected a similar package last August, saying it would not give up its indigenous technology.

A six-nation meeting scheduled for tomorrow in London to discuss Iran's nuclear program has been postponed. The meeting, which is to include senior officials from the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain, is expected to deal with what incentives to offer Iran and possible punitive measures if it refuses to suspend its enrichment program.

Agence France-Presse quoted a British Foreign Office spokesman as saying the meeting could be held within the next 10 days.

More preparation

The reason for the postponement was "to allow more detailed preparation on the proposal," he was quoted as saying. He brushed off Ahmadinejad's comments and said Europe's position was clear, referring to the European Union's insistence that Iran abandon its secret enrichment program.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said Tehran could not say anything until it received the new proposal but added that Iran was willing to offer its own incentives in return for recognition of its right to enrich uranium at home.

The United States and the European Union have repeatedly expressed doubts about Iran's nuclear program, calling it a possible cover for building bombs. Iran has insisted that its program is purely for peaceful purposes.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad warned that Iran could drop out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if the West increased its pressure on Iran to stop enriching uranium.

"I am telling you, don't do something that [will make] nations and governments regret their membership" in the treaty, he said. "Don't do something that [will make them] drop out of it to have peaceful nuclear technology."

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