Ah­madine­jad ex­pects new nu­clear talks

The Ira­nian pres­i­dent, in New York for U.N. meet­ings, says it’s the only op­tion. Sanc­tions haven’t hurt, he adds.

Los Angeles Times - - The World - Paul Richter re­port­ing from new york paul.richter@latimes.com

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad said Tues­day that he saw a “good chance” that talks could soon re­sume with the United States and its al­lies over Tehran’s dis­puted nu­clear pro­gram be­cause “there is no other al­ter­na­tive.”

Ah­madine­jad, vis­it­ing New York to take part in United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly meet­ings, de­nied that Iran had been hurt by eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed in the last three months to pres­sure Tehran to dra­mat­i­cally al­ter its nu­clear pro­gram. He also dis­missed talk of a pos­si­ble at­tack to de­stroy Iran’s nu­clear in­stal­la­tions as no more than “psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare.”

New talks over Iran’s nu­clear poli­cies are “bound to hap­pen,” he told a group of re­porters at a break­fast, be­cause “what is left is talks.... There’s no other way.”

The U.S. and many other world pow­ers be­lieve Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram is aimed at de­vel­op­ing a bomb.

Iran in­sists its goals are peace­ful, such as power gen­er­a­tion.

Sanc­tions against Tehran have sought to cut off in­vest­ment in Iran’s en­ergy sec­tor, limit the coun­try’s ac­cess to in­ter­na­tional bank­ing and pun­ish Ira­nian of­fi­cials tied to the nu­clear pro­gram.

Iran has been try­ing to make up for the loss of trade and in­vest­ment by turn­ing to other coun­tries, es­pe­cially in the de­vel­op­ing world.

Ah­madine­jad has been urg­ing coun­tries not to en­force the sanc­tions, ar­gu­ing that it is the U.S., rather than Iran, that stands in the way of a so­lu­tion to the nu­clear stand­off.

U.S. of­fi­cials say they are will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate but that Ira­nian of­fi­cials have not agreed to of­fers from the West to re­sume the con­ver­sa­tions. “Iran has been talk­ing about talks but needs to fol­low up,” said a se­nior Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly.

Ray Takeyh, a for­mer U.S. ad­vi­sor on Iran, said that al­though Ah­madine­jad has floated the idea of new talks, a ma­jor­ity of the most pow­er­ful fig­ures in Iran, in­clud­ing supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, are op­posed.

Ah­madine­jad has be­come “the main ad­vo­cate for en­gage­ment,” said Takeyh, now with the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions. “That’s what it’s come to.”

Al­though Ah­madine­jad seemed open to re­newed con­tacts in his meet­ing with jour­nal­ists, he also re­peated harsh crit­i­cisms of the U.S. and its al­lies.

He blasted the U.S. for a planned $60-bil­lion arms deal with Saudi Ara­bia, a re­gional ri­val of Iran.

“That’s how much the United States wants peace,” he said.

But even as he dis­missed talk of war, Ah­madine­jad sug­gested that the U.S. was not ca­pa­ble of wag­ing one.

He said the U.S. has “never en­tered a real war, not in Viet­nam, nor in Afghanistan, nor in World War II.” He sug­gested that other coun­tries bore the brunt of fight­ing in World War II. “War is not just bomb­ing some­place. When it comes, it has no lim­its,” he said.

Kaveh Afrasi­abi, an Ira­nian po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist and one­time ad­vi­sor to Ira­nian nu­clear ne­go­tia­tors, said Ira­nian of­fi­cials were try­ing to per­suade other gov­ern­ments that the sanc­tions and U.S. arms sales were a threat to re­gional sta­bil­ity but that Iran was will­ing to co­op­er­ate with the U.S. in the in­ter­est of sta­bil­ity.

Afrasi­abi, who was trav­el­ing with the Ira­nian del­e­ga­tion, said he be­lieved there had been be­hind-thescenes diplo­matic con­ver­sa­tions and that a re­sump­tion of U.S.-Ira­nian talks might be an­nounced soon.

Ah­madine­jad and Pres­i­dent Obama are sched­uled to ad­dress the Gen­eral Assem­bly in speeches Thurs­day.

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