Tehran, June 26 (Reuters): Hardline president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today Iran would press ahead with its controversial nuclear programme and said the Islamic Republic had no real need for ties with arch-foe, the US.
In a sign that Friday’s surprise election result would cement decades of enmity between Tehran and Washington, Ahmadinejad and US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld traded negative remarks in their first comments since the vote.
But the ultra-conservative former mayor of Tehran said Iran would not abandon nuclear talks with the European Union although negotiations would be based on the Islamic Republic’s “national interest”.
Europe shares US suspicions that Iran is seeking to build atomic weapons. Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, insists the programme is to meet soaring demand for electricity.
“We need this technology for energy and medical purposes. We shall carry on with it,” Ahmadinejad said in his first news conference since beating moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Asked about talks between the European Union and Iran over its nuclear programme, he said: “With preserving national interests and by emphasising the right of the Iranian nation for using peaceful nuclear technology, we will continue the talks.”
European states ' Britain, France and Germany ' will list incentives that could be part of a deal to end Iran’s uranium enrichment programme in late July or early August.
Prior to Ahmadinejad’s news conference, the European commissioner Franco Frattini told Italy’s La Repubblica daily that the EU would freeze dialogue with Iran if its comments on nuclear or human rights issues were “negative”.
The President of Iran has little power to change national policy in Iran’s system of clerical rule, with the final word in matters of state lying with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But analysts says the hardliner will influence policy.
In campaigning, Ahmadinejad said Iran had an inalienable right to nuclear technology. Rival candidates advocated better ties with the US, often dubbed the “Great Satan” in Iran, but Ahmadinejad said such ties were not a priority.
“Our nation is continuing the path of progress and on this path has no significant need for (relations with) the United States,” Ahmadinejad told the news conference.
Rumsfeld said Ahmadinejad was “no friend of democracy” and would prove himself unacceptable to young Iran’s young people and its women.
However, Ahmadinejad brushed off such fears. “No extremism will be acceptable in popular government,” he told the news conference, adding his government would be one of “peace and moderation”.