JAKARTA, Indonesia, AP – Iran’s president on Thursday intensified his attacks against Israel, calling it a “a tyrannical regime that will one day will be destroyed,” but also said he was ready to negotiate with the United States and its allies over his country’s nuclear program.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has previously said Israel should be wiped off the map, told a cheering crowd of students in the Indonesian capital that it is every country’s right — not just the United States — to use new technology to meet energy needs.
He said his country was willing to negotiate, but that the United States first must drop its “bad attitude.”
“We are not only defending our rights, we are defending the rights of many other countries,” he said. “By maintaining our position, we are defending our independence.”
Ahmadinejad, known for his fiery rhetoric, is visiting Indonesia amid a deepening standoff over his country’s nuclear program and suspicions it is developing nuclear weapons. This week, key U.N. Security Council members agreed to present Tehran with a choice of incentives or sanctions in deciding whether to suspend uranium enrichment.
The move will delay a draft U.N. resolution that could lead to sanctions and possible military action if Iran does not suspend uranium enrichment.
The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies, saying it aims only to generate energy.
The Iranian leader told Indonesia’s Metro TV station earlier Thursday he was unconcerned about the possibility of U.N. sanctions, saying the West had more to lose than Iran did if the country was isolated.
“We do not need to be dependent on others,” he said, adding international isolation would serve only to “motivate” the country’s nuclear scientists.
He also said Western nations with large stocks of nuclear weapons were practicing “double standards” in pressing Iran to stop its peaceful nuclear program.
Asked what it would take to begin talks with the United States to resolve the standoff, he said Tehran would talk to anyone except Israel, which Iran does not recognize.
“There are no limits to our dialogue,” he said. “But if someone points an arm (a weapon) at your face and says you must speak, will you do that?”
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly spoken out against Israel and provoked a world outcry in October when he said Israel should be “wiped off the map.”
Israeli officials have described Iran’s nuclear quest as the Jewish state’s greatest threat. Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres warned Monday that Iran could be threatened with destruction if it continues to vow to destroy Israel.
Israel had no immediate comment on Ahmadinejad’s latest remarks, said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.
At a meeting Tuesday, representatives of the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France as well as Germany agreed to tell Iran the possible consequences of its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program and the benefits if it abandons it.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday she and her counterparts on the U.N. Security Council agreed to give Iran another two weeks to reconsider its position.
The Chinese and Russians have balked at the British, French and U.S. efforts to put the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. Such a move would declare Iran a threat to international peace and security and set the stage for further measures if Tehran refuses to comply.
Those measures could range from breaking diplomatic relations to economic sanctions and military action.