TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected a renewed call from the United States to engage diplomatically to overcome the nuclear standoff, saying he saw no change in Washington’s hostile policy.
Speaking at a factory inauguration on Saturday, Ahmadinejad said a message by President Barack Obama to mark the Iranian new year last month contained “three or four beautiful words” but nothing new of substance.
“They say that ‘we have extended our hands to the people of Iran but the government of Iran and the people of Iran pushed it back’. What hand did you extend toward us?” Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech.
“What changed? Your sanctions were lifted? The adverse propaganda was stopped? The pressure was alleviated? Did you change your attitude in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine?”
After taking office last year Obama indicated he would engage with Iran if it “unclenched its fist.” But, accusing Tehran of rejecting diplomatic approaches over its nuclear program, which Washington says aims to create a nuclear bomb, Obama is pushing world powers to impose new U.N. sanctions.
Iran would easily cope with any new sanctions on petroleum imports, Ahmadinejad said, adding that such measures would only serve to strengthen his people’s resolve.
“You should know that the more hostile you are, the stronger an incentive our people will have, it will double,” he said.
“They said ‘we want sanctions on petroleum’. Why don’t you do it? The sooner the better.”
Ahmadinejad also sent a message to Israel, which is urging tough international action to stop Iran’s nuclear program, and which has not ruled out taking military action against what it sees as a threat to its existence.
Referring to Israeli air strikes on Friday on the Gaza Strip, ruled by Iranian-backed Hamas, Ahmadinejad said:
“One more time I warn the leaders of arrogant powers and the supporters of Zionist regime to not make a new mistake in the Middle East — attacking Gaza will cost you too much.”