NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday the age of nuclear deterrence was long gone and any country still stockpiling nuclear weapons was “mentally retarded”.
He again denied Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons, a day after the re-election victory of U.S. President Barack Obama, for whom Tehran’s disputed nuclear program will be one of the thornier foreign policy issues of his second term.
“The period and era of using nuclear weapons is over ... Nuclear bombs are not anymore helpful and those who are stockpiling nuclear weapons, politically they are backward, and they are mentally retarded,” Ahmadinejad told reporters at a forum to promote democracy on the Indonesian island of Bali.
“The Iranian nation is not seeking an atomic bomb, nor do they need to build an atomic bomb ... For defending ourselves we do not need a nuclear weapon,” said Ahmadinejad.
He added that representatives of any government or agency could visit the Islamic Republic to verify that it was not developing nuclear weapons.
Iran says it is enriching uranium only for peaceful energy purposes but it restricts access for U.N. nuclear inspectors and concealed some sensitive sites from them in the past.
The West has imposed increasingly harsh and far-reaching sanctions on Iran over suspicions it is trying to design a nuclear weapon in secret. Sanctions include curbs on imports of the OPEC member’s oil and on its sources of financing, battering its economy this year and putting Ahmadinejad under pressure.
The hardline conservative president said he was open to talks with Obama on forging peace around the world and called for the dismantling of all U.S. military bases abroad.
Obama’s re-election may open an opportunity for new negotiations with Iran on agreeing constraints to its nuclear program, with sanctions piling economic pressure on its theocratic leaders.
Obama’s Republican rival in the presidential election, Mitt Romney, had pledged a more hawkish approach to Iran had he won.
Ahmadinejad dismissed the U.S. election as a “battleground for the capitalists”.
Writing by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Mark Heinrich