Ahmadinejad Sheds No New Light On Iran's Nuclear Plan
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Don, stay with us, we are going to bring another voice into the conversation, because the president hopes to exert some pressure on Iran today when he chairs that meeting of the Security Council. The subject is nuclear proliferation. But if Iran's president is feeling pressured, he certainly wasn't showing it last night.
As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN: The General Assembly floor had pretty much emptied out by the time Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to the podium to speak. He spent much of the time railing against Israel and against unbridled capitalism and trying to deflect widespread international criticism about the elections in June. While protestors outside the U.N. accused him of stealing that vote, Ahmadinejad, through an interpreter, called Iran one of the most democratic governments in the world.
President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (Iran): (Through translator) Our nation has successfully gone through a glorious and fully democratic election, opening a new chapter for our country in a march towards national progress and enhanced international interactions.
KELEMEN: The Iranian leader did not address international concerns about his country's nuclear ambitions, though he responded somewhat to President Obama's outstretched hand. Again, he spoke through an interpreter.
Pres. AHMADINEJAD: (Through translator) Our nation is prepared to warmly shake all those hands which are honestly extended to us.
KELEMEN: While he was in the general assembly hall to speak, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was meeting downstairs with her counterparts from the European Union, Russia and China to prepare for a meeting they're going to have with the Iranians in October. She came out saying they're all united on their strategy.
Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (U.S. State Department): We have consistently said that Iran is entitled to peaceful nuclear power. They are not entitled to a nuclear weapons program.
KELEMEN: Clinton was joined by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who read out the official statement from the group of world powers dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue.
Mr. DAVID MILIBAND (Foreign Secretary, Great Britain): The meeting on the first of October will provide an opportunity to seek a comprehensive, long-term and appropriate solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation. We expect a serious response from Iran and we'll decide in the context of our duel track approach as a result of our meeting on our next steps.
KELEMEN: Next steps could include tougher sanctions against Iran. Even Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose government has been skeptical about such an approach, held out the possibility for more sanctions after he met yesterday with President Obama.
President DMITRY MEDVEDEV (Russia): (Through translator) Sanctions rarely lead to productive results. But in some cases, sanctions and inevitable.
KELEMEN: For his part, the Iranian leader didn't show any signs in his speech that his country would cave to pressure and curb its nuclear program, which he has always insisted is peaceful. But in an interview with the Washington Post and Newsweek, he did float some ideas for confidence-building steps.
He said Iran is willing to have its nuclear experts meet with scientists from the U.S. and other world powers, and he said Iran wants to buy enriched uranium from the United States for medical purposes. Ahmadinejad said those are proposals Iran will bring to the table in Geneva October 1st.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, New York.
INSKEEP: President Obama is not expected to meet Iran's president here in New York this week, but there are certainly discussions about Iran. And NPR's Don Gonyea is still with us. And Don, what kind of discussions have been going on?
DON GONYEA: Iran comes up at every bilateral meeting. We heard Michele reference the session with the president and Mr. Medvedev yesterday. And the White House is really trumpeting what Mr. Medvedev said. He said we believe we need to help Iran to take a right decision. He went on to say that they need to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The White House sees that as real progress - they were really happy to hear it. And that topic…
INSKEEP: The suggestion that Russia is onboard with pressing Iran in some fashion.
GONYEA: Exactly. We don't know how we move forward yet, but that was the lead out of that meeting yesterday.
INSKEEP: Don, good talking with you.
GONYEA: Thank you.
INSKEEP: NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea is here in New York, where President Obama will be chairing a meeting of the United Nations Security Council today. The subject is nuclear nonproliferation.
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