TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s president on Monday snubbed U.S. President Barack Obama’s end-September deadline to talk to world powers on its disputed nuclear program, saying in his opinion discussion on the issue is “finished.”
Iran, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, says its nuclear activities are aimed at producing electricity and has repeatedly rejected demands to halt such work.
“From our view point (discussion of) our nuclear issue is finished,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his first news conference since he was sworn into office on August 5 following a disputed re-election in June.
“We will continue our work in the framework of global regulations and in close cooperation with the (U.N.) International Atomic Energy Agency. We will never negotiate on the Iranian nation’s obvious rights,” he added.
Obama has given Tehran until this month to take up a six powers’ offer of talks on trade benefits if it stops nuclear enrichment, or face harsher sanctions.
Ahmadinejad invited officials from the six powers -- the United States, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany -- to take a look at Iran’s upcoming package of proposals addressing global “challenges.”
Iran was ready to negotiate and cooperate on making “peaceful use of clean nuclear energy” available for all countries and in preventing the spread of nuclear arms, he said.
The semi-official ISNA news agency said Iran was likely to unveil the package by the end of this week.
“I think they (Iranian officials) have invited representatives of those countries to come and get it,” Ahmadinejad said. “We have always been and always will be ready for negotiations and for hearing opinions.”
Last Wednesday the six powers pressed Iran to meet them for talks on the nuclear program before a United Nations General Assembly meeting on September 23-25.
The United Nations Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran since 2006, targeting Iranian companies and individuals linked to the nuclear program.
Iran has often said nuclear arms have no place in its defense doctrine and called on the United States and other countries with such weapons to dismantle them.
Ahmadinejad said he was ready to hold a public debate with Obama, who offered a new U.S. approach to Iran when he took office in January if the Islamic state would “unclench its fist.”
“We believe this is the best way for solving global issues,” Ahmadinejad said. “Any issue can be negotiated but in front of the media. The time for secret moves and secret agreements is over.”
Ahmadinejad has faced political turmoil since a June election, which was followed by huge opposition protests, plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis after its 1979 Islamic revolution and exposed establishment rifts.
It also added to tension between Iran and Western powers after Tehran accused the United States and Britain in particular of meddling into its affairs and fomenting post-election unrest.
Parliament’s approval of most of Ahmadinejad’s government ministers last week has helped to shore up his position.
Ahmadinejad said Washington “made a mistake on Iran’s elections ... the Iranian nation felt that there was not enough sincerity in the slogan of change.”
He once again rejected opposition charges of vote fraud to secure his re-election. “They said there was vote rigging without any proof. I believe this is the worst kind of dictatorship,” Ahmadinejad said.
He said “leaders of unrest should be held accountable, but fairly.” Iran last month began mass trials of more than 100 senior reformers, activists and others accused of inciting the protests in a bid to undermine the Islamic state.
Writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Sonya Hepinstall
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