TEHRAN, Iran, AP -Iran”s hard-line president on Sunday criticized nations that have economic ties with Tehran but oppose its nuclear program, in an apparent reference to European countries pressuring Iran to freeze parts of its atomic program.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad”s comments, made in Iran”s parliament, came before lawmakers began a debate expected to last until Thursday on the new president”s nominees to fill his first Cabinet.
The nominees include avid proponents of broadening Iran”s nuclear program — a step bound to ensure continued friction with the United States. Iran”s parliament is dominated by Ahmadinejad”s supporters and is expected to approve his candidates.
Ahmadinejad didn”t name the trade partners opposing Iran”s nuclear program, but was apparently referring Britain, France and Germany, which referred Tehran to the United Nations” nuclear watchdog after it resumed various uranium processing activities last week.
The three countries are Iran”s main European trading partners and have been leading U.S.-backed European Union efforts to persuade Iran to permanently freeze parts of its nuclear program, including uranium enrichment.
"They expect to intervene in Iran”s domestic affairs and make Iran silent about important regional and international issues," the Iranian president said in a speech broadcast live on state-run TV. "They want Iran to follow international order and norm while they accuse Iran in international bodies."
"What kind of balance is this? This is cruel and unfair. Our nation will not tolerate such behavior on the international scene," he added.
Ahmadinejad said foreign states should be "thankful" Tehran imports their products, but instead they "apply hostile policies against Iran and do not recognize our legitimate rights," a reference to Iran”s rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The president said his new government wanted friendly ties with the international community, but added that economic links were inseparable from political relations, including support for the nuclear program.
His remarks follow Iran”s rejection this month of a European offer to permanently suspend uranium enrichment activities in return for a package of incentives, including supplying Iran with nuclear fuel.
Iran”s snub was followed by a resolution by the U.N.”s International Atomic Energy Agency urging Tehran to halt the conversion of uranium into gas at its atomic plant in the central Iranian city of Isfahan.
Conversion is a step before enrichment, which produces material usable for both energy-producing reactor fuel and atomic bombs.
Iran also rejected the IAEA resolution, which diplomats familiar with the proceedings said gives Tehran until Sept. 3 to halt uranium conversion or risk being referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
The United States accuses Iran of trying to build atomic weapons and has been backing the EU negotiations with Tehran. Iran has repeatedly denied the U.S. claims and says it is pursuing a peaceful nuclear program designed to generate electricity.
Iran voluntarily suspended enrichment in 2003 and expanded the suspension last November to include uranium reprocessing activities and building centrifuges used to enrich uranium. The moves had been made to avoid U.N. Security Council referral for possible sanctions and build trust in EU talks.
But following dissatisfaction with the EU offers, Iran resumed uranium reprocessing activities at its Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan.
President Bush has said "all options are on the table" in dealing with Iran in an implicit threat of possible military action if Tehran doesn”t rein in its nuclear program.