By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to take his case for pursuing nuclear power before the U.N. Security Council, the government said Sunday, as the world body debates new sanctions on the Islamic nation for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
Iran has rejected U.N. demands that it halt enrichment, insisting its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at producing energy. The U.S. and its European allies are concerned its real aim is to produce nuclear weapons.
"The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran intends to attend a U.N. Security Council meeting to be held on Iran's nuclear case in order to defend the rights of the Iranian nation in exploiting peaceful nuclear energy," state TV quoted government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham as saying.
The report did not say when Ahmadinejad wanted to appear before the 15-member council, which would have to approve his request after closed consultations.
South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, whose country holds the rotating Security Council presidency, said Ahmadinejad had not made a formal request, but if he did, "it would be very difficult to deny him that opportunity."
Kumalo said he would "be open to consulting" with the other council members on scheduling Ahmadinejad's appearance. "I would be surprised if they said they don't want to hear him," he told The Associated Press.
Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, when asked about Ahmadinejad's desire to address the Security Council, said: "Interesting idea!"
The U.S. mission to the U.N. declined to comment on Ahmadinejad's possible appearance.
In December, the Security Council imposed limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment, which can be used both to produce nuclear fuel and build an atomic bomb. The council is now considering additional sanctions, including a travel ban, an arms embargo, trade restrictions and an expanded list of people and companies subject to an asset freeze.
The U.S. and Russia had expressed optimism that a draft resolution could be voted on this week. But Ahmadinejad's appearance could delay those efforts — already complicated by differences between the council's five permanent members over how tough the sanctions should be.
Ambassadors from the five permanent council members, plus Germany, were meeting Sunday evening to try to resolve their differences. It will be their fifth such talks in a week.
Among the proposed penalties would be asset freezes against companies controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, an elite corps that oversees vital Iranian interests, including oil and natural gas installations and the nation's missile arsenal.
Russia has raised concerns that mentioning the Revolutionary Guards would amount to censuring the entire institution. However, a council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks were closed, said the sanctions would probably not target the Revolutionary Guards as a whole, but single out individual members and companies.
China, meanwhile, has resisted proposed cutbacks on loan guarantees for companies doing business in Iran, a measure strongly supported by the United States.
Russia and China, which both have strong business ties with Iran, have often been at odds with the U.S. and Europe over how tough to be on Tehran.
There has been less friction over a proposal to ban Iran from exporting arms, although China wants the banned weapons to be specifically defined.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N. nuclear watchdog — suspended nearly two dozen nuclear aid programs to Iran as part of the U.N. sanctions imposed in December.
Those sanctions — milder than the U.S. wanted — commit all U.N. member countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
Also Sunday, Iran had stern words for Russia over delays in a shipment of fuel for its Bushehr nuclear plant in southern Iran.
Talks last week between Russia and Iran aimed at resolving a dispute over the plant ended in failure. Russia says Iran has paid only a fraction of the $25 million it owes a month for construction work at Bushehr.
Iranian officials rejected Russia's claims and have suggested Moscow is bowing to international pressure to take a tougher line on Iran.
"We hope the Russians won't politicize (the fuel shipment)," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini. "This (shipment) should be done within the next two weeks. We expect the Russians to fulfill their commitments."
Associated Press writers Alexandra Olson and Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed to this report.
photo source: http://cagle.com/news/IranNuclearPower/main.asp
Larry Wright, Detroit, Michigan
Labels: News update about Iran