Iranian president says 'time is on our side' on nuclear issue

Wednesday, November 15th 2006, 8:55 pm
By: News On 6

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran on Wednesday dismissed a U.N. report that inspectors found new traces of enriched uranium and plutonium at a nuclear waste facility, saying it had already explained that discovery.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted the West will gradually back down in its standoff with Iran and eventually accept its nuclear program.

``While the West tries to thwart the progress of our nation, time is on our side,'' Ahmadinejad told a crowd in Sanandaj, the capital city of Iran's Kurdistan province. ``They would have to take one step back with every passing day and approve the right of the Iranian people.''

Oil-rich Iran has claimed it has a right to a nuclear program it says is aimed at producing energy. But the United States suspects Tehran has ambitions to make nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad's comments came a day after an International Atomic Energy Agency report said its experts have found unexplained plutonium and highly enriched uranium traces in a nuclear waste facility in Iran. Both materials can be used in building a nuclear warhead, though one U.N. official said the uranium was not enriched to weapons-grade level.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the parliamentary committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, called the report ``an old story.''

``This is an old story and contains no new points,'' Boroujerdi told the official Islamic Republic News Agency on Wednesday. ``Iran has submitted a comprehensive report on the issue to the IAEA. It will be convincing.''

He did not elaborate on the source of the traces. Iran has said that previous traces of enriched uranium found by inspectors came from equipment that it bought from abroad without knowing of the contamination.

``What was mentioned in (IAEA chief Mohamed) ElBaradei's report are issues that Iran has already answered many times. Tehran, based on the safeguards, has fully cooperated with the IAEA,'' the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini as saying.

A senior U.N. official who was familiar with the report cautioned against reading too much into the new findings, saying Iran had explained both and they could plausibly be classified as byproducts of peaceful nuclear activities.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the report publicly, said that while the uranium traces were enriched to a higher level than needed to generate power, they were below weapons-grade.

The report, prepared for next week's meeting of the 35-nation IAEA, also faulted Tehran for not cooperating with the agency's attempts to investigate suspicious aspects of Iran's nuclear program that have led to fears it might be interested in developing nuclear arms.

The U.S. and its European allies are currently negotiating with Russia and China over a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would penalize Iran for its refusal to respect an Aug. 31 deadline for halting uranium enrichment.

Russia and China have extensive trade with Iran and are rejecting the harsh sanctions that the Western allies want to impose.

President Bush, eager for Russian help in ongoing nuclear disputes with North Korea and Iran, visited President Vladimir Putin Wednesday in Moscow at an airport stopover on his way to Asia.

John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warned Wednesday that reluctance to impose sanctions was misguided.

``However simple it is to say, there are a lot of people who think the commercial aspect of their relationship with Iran and North Korea is more important,'' Bolton told Fox News Wednesday. ``Other countries are watching and if those two countries succeed in getting and keeping nuclear weapons, other countries will draw a bad conclusion.''