SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan – Iran urged Arab countries this weekend to support its nuclear program but received a cool reception at the World Economic Forum, particularly from U.S. allies worried about Iran's growing regional influence.
Iranian officials said separately that the nuclear program was moving ahead as scheduled and that the country would not suspend uranium enrichment despite the threat of a third set of U.N. sanctions. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to present its latest report on Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council in coming days.
Arab countries should value Iran's nuclear development because it could help them address their own energy needs, said Mohammed J.A. Larijani, a former deputy foreign minister and brother of Iran's chief nuclear negotiator.
"Iran will be a partner, a brotherly partner, and will share its capabilities with the people of the region," Larijani told AP Television News at the end of the three-day World Economic Forum in this dead sea resort town.
In contrast, he argued the West would turn a blind eye if Arab countries came looking for nuclear assistance.
Arab diplomats gave Larijani and other Iranian delegates a cold shoulder during the forum, however.
"There are serious flaws in the regional order and some countries are interfering in the affairs of Arab countries," Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib said, referring to Iran's growing influence in Iraq.
Addressing Larijani at a panel session on Iraq's future, al-Khatib said: "We need to see deeds on the ground and respect for Iraq's territorial integrity."
Suspicion of Iran was clear at the conference. Iranian delegates stood by themselves during coffee breaks at the gathering of some 1,000 politicians and businessmen from Arab and Western nations, including the United States.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki often found himself defending Iran's policies, especially in Iraq, where Sunni Arabs worry Shiite Iran is aiding the flow of arms and fighters into the majority Shiite country.
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, lashed out at Iran at the conference.
"We say stop your interference in our internal affairs, stop settling scores on our soil, stop being part of covert plans to destabilize Iraq, and sit down with us to settle our differences, resolve outstanding issues and talk about economic cooperation," he said.
Iranian officials in Tehran, meanwhile, insisted the country had no intention of suspending uranium enrichment.
"I confirm that our technical efforts are going ahead appropriately," Reza Aqazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said in comments to the official news agency, IRNA.
Aqazadeh said Iran's goal remained "improving nuclear technology" and installing 50,000 centrifuges at its underground plant in Natanz. A confidential IAEA document obtained by AP last month said Iran was using 1,300 centrifuges at Natanz.
In the enrichment process, uranium gas is injected into cascades of thousands of centrifuges, which spin and purify it. If enriched to a low level, the result is fuel for a nuclear reactor. To a much higher level it can build the material for a nuclear warhead.
The U.S. and some of its allies have accused Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons; Iran says its program is peaceful.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, had agreed to meet European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on May 31 to discuss the deadlock over Tehran's nuclear program.
The two men last held talks in April, and Larijani said at the time they had come closer to a "united view" on how to break the stalemate.