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Iran to U.S.: Stop bluster, let's talk

Ambassador says Iran must be part of solution on nuclear issue
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's U.N. ambassador, arrives for a Security Council consultation May 8.



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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Nuclear power

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Iran's ambassador to the United Nations said Tehran wants to work directly with the United States on an "easily attainable" resolution, if Washington drops "the intimidation tactics."

Ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif's statement came the day after the International Atomic Energy Agency pleaded with Iran to continue talks with European nations that want to offer it incentives in exchange for ending its nuclear-enrichment program.

"We are prepared to engage in serious discussion in order to resolve this issue, and we have not made any exception with regard to the United States," Zarif said on Thursday.

Iran ended its voluntary cooperation with the IAEA in February, which included ending surprise inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Despite accusations from the United States and other countries that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

That beef would need to be resolved before Iran and the United States could have any meaningful discussion, Zarif said, explaining that Washington must acknowledge that Iran has a right to nuclear technology under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

At the same time, Zarif said, Iran would have to acknowledge that it has a responsibility not to pursue nuclear weapons. This is in Iran's best interests, he said, because "from a sober, strategic analysis, Iran's security will be decreased by possession or pursuit of nuclear weapons, rather than increased."

The United States could get further with Iran if it were to "ban the pressure tactics, the intimidation tactics" and talk with Iran directly, rather than through European nations and the United Nations, he said.

"If they're looking for solutions, why are they not talking to one side of the problem?" Zarif asked. "There is a resolution to this situation, and the resolution is easily attainable, provided you look for it."

President Bush, speaking at a news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, rejected the idea of approaching Iran with incentives.

"They're the ones who walked away from the table," he said. "It's on them."

Iran, he said, "needs a government that is going to recognize that part of being a great country is to be in line with your international obligations."

Earlier Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China -- and Germany met Wednesday in London, England, to discuss an incentives package for Iran.

He did not elaborate, but said it was the Iranian regime -- not the Iranian people -- that made the prospect of Iran possessing nuclear weapons so worrisome.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said that the Holocaust is a myth and that Israel should be destroyed.

"It is with this in mind that (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) has requested a $75 million increase from Congress to support democratic efforts within the country," Bolton said.

'Iran likes respect'

As for the incentives package, Zarif said a "carrot-and-stick" approach is not the way to proceed with negotiations.

"It's not whether Iran likes carrots," he said. "Iran likes respect. Iran demands respect. If there is to be a solution in Iran, Iran has to be part of the solution. We don't expect others to cook for us something and then present it to us and then tell us, 'Eat it or else.' This is not the way Iranians do international business."

Last week, Ahmadinejad scoffed at a European incentives package that would have provided Iran with a light-water nuclear reactor and other considerations in exchange for it giving up its enrichment program.

"Do you think you are dealing with a 4-year-old child to whom you can give some walnuts and chocolates and get gold from him?" Ahmadinejad said during a speech last week in central Iran.

In a speech Thursday, Ahmadinejad said that nations opposed to Iran's use of nuclear technology simply don't want to recognize the nation's independence and its status as a role model for other nations, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

"This is mainly because Iran's achievements in all fields further motivates the vigilance of the world's free and independent nations, which eventually will lead to the downfall of the global arrogance," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has long maintained that the United States needs to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, but Washington has preferred to let France, Germany and Britain talk with Tehran.

"There are plenty of people who want to make this a U.S.-Iran bilateral issue," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a briefing Wednesday. "Our approach, and we think it's the right approach, and it's the approach supported by our partners in the international community, is to make this an international, multilateral approach."

According to diplomats, Europeans want to offer Tehran a civil nuclear program with fuel guarantees and a light-water reactor, economic investment and political and security guarantees.

Several administration officials said there are serious splits between the United States and other Security Council members over the proposed incentives package for Iran because Washington feels the incentives go too far and Russia and China have not shown support for proposed penalties if Tehran refuses to comply.

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