Monday, September 14, 2009

Iran's counter-offer ignores international alarm

From the Washington Post Foreign Service, Friday, September 11, 2009, by Thomas Erdbrink:

TEHRAN, Sept. 10 -- Iran is not prepared to discuss halting its uranium enrichment program in response to Western demands but is proposing instead a worldwide control system aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top political aide said in an interview Thursday.

In a set of proposals handed to the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany on Wednesday, Iran also offered to cooperate on solving problems in Afghanistan and fighting terrorism and to collaborate on oil and gas projects, Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said. A longtime confidant of the president's, Samareh Hashemi is reportedly being considered for the key post of first vice president in Ahmadinejad's new government.

As described by Samareh Hashemi, Iran's offer is similar to a call by President Obama in April to eliminate the world's nuclear weapons. Later this month, Obama is scheduled to chair a special session of the U.N. General Assembly's annual meeting aimed at seeking consensus on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, rather than targeting individual nations such as Iran and North Korea. Ahmadinejad is also scheduled to attend the U.N. meeting and has said he is ready to debate Obama publicly.

"It's not really responsive to our greatest concern, which is obviously Iran's nuclear program," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of Tehran's package of proposals. "Iran reiterated its view that as far as it is concerned, its nuclear file is closed. . . . That is certainly not the case. There are many outstanding issues."

But Crowley did not shut the door completely. He said the United States was consulting with its negotiating partners -- Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany...

...The negotiating group, known as the P5-plus-one because it includes the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, has sought since 2006 to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear program...

...Earlier this year, the group offered to provide economic and security benefits to Iran in return for suspension of Tehran's enrichment activity and international oversight. The proposals delivered Wednesday amounted to Iran's counteroffer.

...Samareh Hashemi also called on the United States to apologize for "interfering in Iran's election and other instances of meddling," attacked America's two-party political system and denounced "liberal democracy" in Western nations. "Both the internal and external signs of this Western liberal democracy show that it's approaching defeat and collapse," he said.

Ahmadinejad began a second term last month after his government effectively crushed opposition protests over his disputed reelection in June. He has accused the West of orchestrating the protests.

...Iran maintains that archenemy Israel possesses nuclear weapons, and it has often accused the West of having a double standard regarding Israel's nuclear arsenal.
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