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Iran attacks ‘bullying’ policies of world powers

A man rides his bicycle next to a banner, referring to President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development summit in Rio de Janeiro June 21, 2012. (REUTERS/Ana Carolina Fernandes)

TEHRAN: Iran’s leaders have lashed out at the West, accusing it of “enmity” and “bullying” policies toward their nation after recent nuclear talks with world powers in Moscow ended without progress, according to Iranian media reports Thursday.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of “Rio+20,” a U.N. conference on sustainable development in Brazil, calling for the world powers to “return to the legal framework” in talks with Tehran about Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

“Arrogant and domination-seeking parties should avoid enmity toward the Iranian nation,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Iranian state TV. Ahmadinejad defended Iran, saying it had offered “legal, constructive, fair and friendly proposals,” during the Moscow talks.

A U.N. spokesman said Ban discussed the showdown over Iran’s disputed nuclear programs and the situation in Syria with Ahmadinejad, but gave no details except to say that the pair “exchanged views on the situation in Syria.”

Two days of intensive nuclear talks in Moscow between Tehran and six world powers ended Tuesday, with both sides agreeing only to continue low-level talks in early July. The six – the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany – want Iran to stop enriching uranium to a level that is just steps away from its use as the core of nuclear warheads.

Iran says it does not seek atomic weapons and that it is enriching uranium only to make reactor fuel or medical isotopes, insisting it has a right to enrich under international law.

With neither side ready to accept what the other brought to the table in the form of inducements to compromise, the talks ended with no headway. The lack of progress in Moscow is sure to be seen by critics as a sign that talks are ineffective in persuading Iran to curb enrichment.

In Tehran, influential cleric and former president associated with a centrist branch of the clerical establishment, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said world powers showed “bullying” policies and “dishonesty” in Moscow.

“The talks proved that the Western side is [not interested] in interaction and they are not honest. They have based their policy on bullying alone,” Rafsanjani was quoted by several Iranian dailies as telling a group of clerics. He also urged Iranian unity to thwart its enemies.

Rafsanjani heads an advisory body to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who has final say on all state matters.

Along with recognition of the right to enrich, Iran seeks relief from growing U.N. and other sanctions, including spreading international embargoes on its oil sales. That is something the six are ready to grant only if Tehran agrees to enrichment suspension and related measures.

Other Iranian officials have also blamed the West for the talks’ failure.

Allaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the powerful parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, told the official IRNA news agency that Tehran had faced “misbehavior” by the U.S. and its allies during the talks in Moscow. He did not elaborate.

State TV ran a commentary blaming the failure of the Moscow talks on the West’s refusal to hold a round of preparatory technical discussions between experts beforehand. Iran says it repeatedly asked the West for these preparatory discussions, but says it received no answer.

The newscaster said the West hoped Iran would concede its “nuclear rights” to avoid tightening U.S. and EU sanctions. An EU embargo on Iranian crude starts July 1.

Ali Reza Khamesian, an analyst in Tehran, believes the lack of any outcome from the Moscow talks has convinced Iranian leaders that “the West is trying to pin Iran in the corner of the ring in heavy fighting.”

Khamesian says that Iran sees the talks as “fruitless” but will continue them to lessen “threats.”

Iran’s arch-foe Israel says Iran is stretching out the talks to move closer to the ability to make weapons, and it has threatened to attack the Islamic Republic as a last resort. Israel may argue that the negotiations are turning into “talks about talks” – something the U.S. and its allies have vowed they will not tolerate.

Earlier this month Khamenei warned any Israeli attack would be answered with a “lightning” response by the Islamic Republic and suggested Iran’s nuclear program cannot be curtailed by Western sanctions.

In separate developments Thursday, an Iranian news agency said that the country’s experts had defused a “massive” cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 22, 2012, on page 9.

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