Stressing Iran's right to develop nuclear technology for industrial production, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a Headquarters press conference this afternoon that Iran had cooperated fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) investigation of its nuclear programme and that the legal matter was now closed.
Iran's nuclear activities -- including development of a heavy-water reactor that ran on natural non-enriched uranium and was less costly than a light-water reactor -- were peaceful, transparent and fully complied with IAEA rules, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, dismissing fears by the United States and other Western countries that Iran could be developing a nuclear bomb.
Asked about reports that the United States Congress had approved new sanctions against Iran, and that France would take a similar step, he said, "From our point of view, it's closed as a political issueâ€¦ It should have been examined solely in the framework of the IAEA, but certain Powers hostile to Iran for the past 30 years have turned a legal issue into a loud, controversial political issue."
The President said that, while he aimed to prevent sanctions, he had little faith in the Security Council, where powerful nations seeking to undermine Iran enjoyed veto power and used the Council to forward their agenda. "We really haven't had good experiences with the Security Council in the past. We can't expect that the rights of our nation will be taken care of. So what's right for us to do is to cooperate with the IAEA."
He made it clear that Iran would not bow to pressure to replace its nuclear programme with renewable energies, such as wind and solar power. Nuclear energy was less costly and cleaner, he said, and was also being developed by the same countries that had called on Iran to halt nuclear development. A double standard existed in IAEA proceedings as well. While Iran had responded to the Agency's queries about its nuclear activities, nations critical of his country had failed to respond to IAEA probes about their own nuclear programmes.
The President also dismissed claims that Iran aimed to weaken and control neighbouring Iraq. The two nations historically enjoyed strong cultural ties and friendship, and a secure, peaceful and strong Iraq was in Iran's best interests. The real threat was the United States. "Those who have occupied Iraq have chosen to accuse others. The only way forward is for them to accept their mistakes, change their course of action and respect the Iraqi people."
The President also referred to Israel as a "Zionist regime", which had illegally occupied Palestine for 60 years, and he repeated his call to allow the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter.
During the press conference, journalists peppered Mr. Ahmadinejad with questions about his speech the previous day at Columbia University, noting that, while he had invited United States scholars to visit Iran, academics in Iran were often beaten and jailed for expressing their views. The President refuted those accusations, saying Iranians enjoyed freedom of speech and expression. He also implored Columbia University to be more willing to listen to differing views, stressing that it was important to hear ideas and opinions contrary to one's own. When asked if homosexuality existed in Iran, he said he did not know of any gay people in his country.