JAKARTA, Indonesia, AP -Iran’s president said Thursday he was ready to negotiate with the United States and its allies over his country’s nuclear program but he also suggested that any threats against Tehran would make the dialogue more difficult.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also intensified his verbal attacks on Israel, calling it a “a tyrannical regime that one day will be destroyed.”
The Iranian leader, known for his fiery rhetoric, made his remarks to cheering students and in a television interview during a visit to the world’s largest Muslim majority nation amid a deepening standoff with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program and suspicions it is seeking atomic weapons.
Asked what it would take to begin talks with the United States to resolve the standoff, Ahmadinejad told Metro TV that Iran “is ready to engage in dialogue with anybody.”
“There are no limits to our dialogue,” Ahmadinejad told Metro TV station. “But if someone points a weapon at your face and says you must speak, will you do that?”
Key U.N. Security Council members agreed Tuesday to postpone a resolution that would have delivered an ultimatum to Tehran, giving Iran another two weeks to reevaluate its insistence on developing its uranium enrichment capabilities.
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 suspend its uranium enrichment operations. Those measures could range from breaking diplomatic relations to economic sanctions and military action.
Ahmadinejad told cheering crowds of students in the Indonesian capital that it was the right of every country — not just the United States — to use new technology to meet energy needs. The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies, saying it aims only to generate energy.
“We are not only defending our rights, we are defending the rights of many other countries,” he added. “By maintaining our position, we are defending our independence.”
Ahmadinejad also said Western nations with large stocks of nuclear weapons were practicing “double standards” in pressing Iran to stop its “peaceful” nuclear program.
“The big powers … have a lot of nuclear weapons in their warehouse,” he told about 1,000 students at Islamic University on Jakarta’s southern outskirts.
“We want to use technology for peace and the welfare of the Muslim people around the world,” he said. “But they want to use it to invade other countries. This is the difference between us and them.”
Ahmadinejad — who has repeatedly spoken out against Israel and declared in October that it should be “wiped off the map” — said the Middle Eastern nation was the only country Tehran was unwilling to speak with about the nuclear standoff.
He called it a “tyrannical regime that one day will be destroyed,” and repeated allegations that European countries were driven by anti-Semitism when they decided after the Holocaust to establish a Jewish state in the midst of Muslim countries. They wanted the Jews out of their own backyard, he said, and paved the way for their ultimate destruction.
Israeli officials — who have described Iran’s nuclear quest as the Jewish state’s greatest threat — had no immediate comment on Ahmadinejad’s latest remarks, said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.
Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Monday that Iran could be threatened with destruction if it continues to vow to destroy Israel.
Ahmadinejad also criticized the United States and European nations over their response to the Palestinian elections.
“When the Palestinian people were holding their general election, (the United States and its European allies), which espouse liberalism and democracy, showed a bad attitude by not recognizing the Palestinian government,” he said.
The students who crammed into auditoriums at the Islamic University and, earlier in the day at the University of Indonesia, applauded Ahmadinejad enthusiastically and listened intently throughout his 60- to 90-minute speeches.
They held signs saying “Iran in our Hearts,” and “Nuclear for Peace,” and some praised him for not wavering in the face of opposition from the United States.
“I loved him, he was very charismatic,” said a first-year economics student who identified herself as Deslina. “If it comes to that, they should go to war. If I could, I would fight the United States.”
Indonesia, which supports Iran’s right to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful means, is considered by Washington to be a close ally in its war on terror and offered Wednesday to mediate in the crisis. Like Iran, it does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.