The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Saturday that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – not the UN Security Council – should be the international body responsible for dealing with Iran's nuclear program in a meeting with IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei in Tehran.
Many in Iran see ElBaradei's visit to Tehran as representing a "new stage" in the Iranian nuclear saga and hope Iran will revert to dealing with IAEA on nuclear matters instead of the Security Council.
"There is no justification to leaving the Iranian file with the Security Council," Ayatollah Khamenei said. He emphasized that the IAEA should maintain its autonomy and that the Iranian case would be an important test for it in this regard.
Ahmadinejad and ElBaradei meeting in Tehran (Photo: AP)
Khamenei added that Iran had until then abided by all of its international obligations, and especially the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
ElBaradei also expressed hope that the Iranian file would be returned to the IAEA.
Iran's spiritual leader also remarked that the Western powers were not interested in having an autonomous IAEA and that they were furious with the agency's position that Iran's nuclear program does not include a military component.
"The Americans wrongly believe that by pressuring Iran on the nuclear issue they will be able to bring down the Iranian regime – but they won't succeed in doing this," the religious leader said.
Khamenei referred to the suspicion that exists among many in the West that Iran is using technological know-how it has acquired on nuclear proliferation to establish a nuclear weapons program for the military.
"Iran has announced a number of times in the past that from a religious and ideological standpoint, it is opposed to the production and use of nuclear weapons," Khamenei said.
He expressed hope that matters that remain unresolved with regards to Iran's nuclear program will be solved quickly.
Ahmadinejad: We won't cave in to pressure
The Iranian news agency FARS reported that ElBaradei praised Iranian cooperation with his agency in recent months. He stressed that it is Iran's right to use nuclear power for the development of their country and noted that negotiations are the only way to resolve the nuclear issue.
Earlier on Saturday, ElBaradei met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called upon the IAEA "not to cave in to pressure from Western powers" and said that the UN nuclear watchdog must "fulfill his obligations in a just and legal manner."
The Iranian president went on to say that "We must annul the Western powers' view that nuclear energy is equal to an atom bomb."