Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday said Israel was a regime based on evil, but also said he was ready to negotiate with the United States and other countries over his country’s nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad, who has previously said Israel should be wiped off the map, told a cheering crowd of students in Jakarta, Indonesia that Israel is “a regime based on evil that cannot continue and one day will vanish.”
Students in the crowd held up posters saying “Iran in our hearts,” and “Nuclear for Peace.". Ahmadinejad, known for his fiery rhetoric, was visiting Indonesia amid a deepening standoff over his country’s nuclear program and suspicions it is developing nuclear weapons.
Key U.N. Security Council members agreed to present Tehran with a choice of incentives or sanctions in deciding whether to suspend uranium enrichment. The Iranian leader told Indonesia’s Metro TV station that he was unconcerned about the possibility of U.N. Sanctions, saying the West had more to lose than Iran did if the country was isolated.
Hints of a possible solution
“We do not need to be dependent on others,” he said, adding international isolation would serve only to “motivate” the country’s nuclear scientists. Asked what it would take to begin talks with the United States to resolve the standoff, he said the country would talk to anyone except Israel, which Iran does not recognize.
“There are no limits to our dialogue,” he said. “But if someone points an arm (a weapon) at your face and says you must speak, will you do that?” said Ahmadinejad, without elaborating.
While Washington has said it favors a diplomatic end to the dispute, it hasn’t ruled out military force and is leading a charge at the United Nations for economic sanctions to be brought down on Iran. Ahmadinejad is visiting Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, on a three-day state visit before heading to the resort island of Bali for a development summit.
Despite Ahmadinejad’s hardline rhetoric, there were hints of a possible solution to the escalating international crisis from other quarters.
In a letter to Time magazine published on its Web site Wednesday, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered new possibilities for solving the impasse with the United States and its allies on the issue.
Meanwhile, Hassan Rohani, Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator, said Tehran would consider ratifying an International Atomic Energy Agency protocol that provides for intrusive and snap inspections and would also address the question of preventing a pullout from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
'There is still room for a peaceful, just solution'
The current Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Tuesday that Tehran had no intention of withdrawing from the treaty and promised to cooperate if the U.N. Atomic watchdog agency dealt with the issue of its nuclear program, rather than the Security Council.
Iran ended all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA in February, including allowing snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Ahmadinejad told reporters Wednesday in Jakarta that Iran will “Absolutely not back out” of defending its right to pursue new technology, accusing the United States and other Western nations of monopolizing the nuclear technology market to secure profits while engaging in non-peaceful proliferation themselves.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also said he hoped Iran would continue dialogue with the IAEA, and offered to help mediate in the dispute "There is still room for a peaceful and just solution," he said. “President Ahmadinejad was more than willing to have a genuine and fair negotiation.”