TEHRAN, Iran – An impasse in nuclear talks between world powers and Iran would only hurt the West by making Tehran push harder to advance its technology, according to the latest remarks by the Iranian president.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments can be seen as a veiled threat that Iran would go ahead with enriching uranium to a higher level should negotiations with the international community fail.
"Cooperation with Iran is in the West's interest" while pressures on the Persian nation would only make the country "more powerful and advanced," Ahmadinejad said, according to a statement posted late Sunday on the presidential Web site.
The remarks come after President Barack Obama said Iran is running out of time to agree a U.N.-brokered plan to ship its low-enriched enriched uranium out of the country for further processing.
Ahmadinejad also reiterated that Iran's nuclear rights are not negotiable and that the country's nuclear activities would only continue within the framework of the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The Web statement did not elaborate on how Western pressure would embolden Iran.
But it's a likely reference to enriching uranium to a higher level of 20 percent, needed to power a research reactor in Tehran that is part of the negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
Iran is currently enriching uranium to less than five percent, which is sufficient to produce fuel for its future nuclear power plant, but has also raised fears in the West of a covert further enrichment by Tehran in a secret nuclear arms pursuit.
Iran says its nuclear program aimed at only peaceful purposes like energy production.
On Sunday, Obama said during talks with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Singapore that "time is running out" for Iran to sign on to a deal with the IAEA.
Obama said he and Medvedev agree that the U.S. and Russia will continue to urge Iran "to take the path that leads them to meeting its international obligations." Medvedev said he still hoped to persuade Iran to send its enriched uranium to his country.
A U.N.-brokered plan in October required Tehran to ship its enriched uranium out of the country for further processing. Under the deal, Tehran would ship 1.2 tons (1,100 kilograms) — around 70 percent of its stockpile — of low-enriched uranium to Russia in one batch by the end of the year for further enrichment, a move that would ease international concerns the material could be processed for a bomb.
The arrangement is not a guarantee that Iran could not develop a bomb if it chose to, but is thought to delay the likelihood of that breakthrough. The deal would be the most tangible payoff for Obama's program of careful outreach to Iran this year, a diplomatic overture dimmer by political violence and alleged vote-rigging in Iran's elections last June.
According to the U.N. plan, after further enrichment in Russia, France would convert the uranium into fuel rods that would be returned to Iran for use in a reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes. Fuel rods cannot be further enriched into weapons-grade material.
In the past, Teheran indicated it may agree to send only "part" of its stockpile abroad however it has not officially answered the agency over the plan.