KERMAN, Iran (AP) – Iran’s president on Wednesday urged Barack Obama to accept a nuclear fuel swap deal, warning the U.S. leader will miss a historic opportunity for improved cooperation from Tehran if the offer is rejected.
Mahmoud Ahamdinejad also issued a stern warning to Russia, saying Moscow’s support for the U.S.-led push for a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran was contrary to the two countries’ neighborly and friendly relations.
Washington has denounced the Iranian offer, brokered last week by Brazil and Turkey, as a ploy by Tehran to avoid a new round of U.N. sanctions over its controversial nuclear program, which the West fears is geared toward nuclear weapons.
“There are people in the world who want to pit Mr. Obama against the Iranian nation and bring him to the point of no return, where the path to his friendship with Iran will be blocked forever,” Ahmadinejad said during a rally in the southern town of Kerman.
Iran proposed last week to ship much of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for nuclear fuel rods needed for a Tehran medical research reactor. The fuel swap would diminish Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium that can possibly be used in making atomic bombs, if the uranium is enriched to a higher, weapons-grade level.
But the proposal did not deter U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France, the five permanent Security Council members, from agreeing on a draft fourth set of sanctions against Iran for refusing to completely halt uranium enrichment, as demanded by the United Nations.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday said in the Chinese capital, Beijing, that Tehran’s offer, submitted on Monday to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, was inadequate and did not address international concerns about Iran’s atomic ambitions.
Tehran’s offer is similar to a U.N.-drafted plan that Washington and its allies last year pressed Iran to accept, but which the Mideast nation rejected at the time.
“If they (U.S. and its allies) are truthful when they say they seek cooperation … they should accept this offer,” Ahmadinejad said. “But if they seek excuses, they should know that the path to any interaction will be closed.”
“Mr. Obama must know that this proposal is a historic opportunity … (Obama should) know that if this opportunity is lost, I doubt the Iranian nation will give a new chance to this gentleman in the future,” he added.
Ahmadinejad also singled out Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, saying the neighboring country’s leader had caved in to U.S. pressure for new sanctions on Tehran.
“Justifying the behavior of Mr. Medvedev today has become very difficult,” he said. “The Iranian nation doesn’t know whether (Russians) ultimately are friends, whether they stand by us or are after other things.”