Iran And Syria Sign Defence Pact

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‘The Iranian nation and government will always stand by the resistance and the oppressed Palestinian people,’ Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has reiterated.

Ahmadinejad met with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal on Sunday in the Iranian capital Tehran.

Hamas is the Palestinian resistance movement that was elected to power in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2006.

Their landslide victory over Fatah in the West Bank and Gaza Strip led to Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip and the 21-day war against Gaza a year ago.

In his meeting with Mishaal, Ahmadinejad predicted that ‘the fall of the global arrogance and the Zionist regime will be quick and simultaneous.’

Mishaal said that ‘Hamas, the resistance and Palestinians will continue to battle the global arrogance until final victory.’

Iran is under pressure from the United States government to give up its efforts to develop nuclear energy.

The US government has brought no such pressure to bear on Israel, which is reported to have a stockpile of at least 200 nuclear bombs.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki said at the weekend that Iran was ready to exchange the bulk of its stockpile of enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods – as proposed by the United Nations – but according to its own mechanisms and timetable.

Speaking to reporters at a regional security conference in Bahrain, Mottaki said Iran agreed with a UN deal proposed in October, in which up to 2,600 pounds (1,200 kilograms) of its uranium would be exchanged for fuel rods to power its research reactor.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) proposed in October that Iran ship its 3.5 per cent enriched uranium out of the country to be further refined by France and Russia into fuel rods for a research reactor.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is purely for peaceful purposes, for medical treatment and electricity.

‘We accepted the proposal in principle,’ Mottaki said, speaking through a translator.

‘We suggested in the first phase we give you 400 kilograms of 3.5 per cent enriched uranium and you give us the equivalent in 20 per cent uranium.’

Iran has about 3,300 pounds (1,500 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium, which it needs to refine to 20 per cent to operate a research reactor that produces medical isotopes.

Mottaki added: ‘We gave a clear answer and we responded and our answer was we accepted in principle, but there were differences in the mechanism.’

The foreign minister suggested that the exchange take place on Iran’s Kish island, in the Persian Gulf.

Iran and Syria have signed a defence agreement at the same time as the West seeks to step up its pressure on both countries.

The treaty, signed by Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi and his Syrian counterpart Ali Mohammad Habib Mahmoud last week, will enable the two states to confront ‘common enemies and challenges’ together.

Iranian Defence Minister Vahidi said it was ‘natural for a country like Syria – which has an inhumane and menacing predator like Israel in its neighbourhood – to be always prepared.’

Vahidi visited the Syrian capital Damascus a week after Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

Iran’s treaty with Syria comes just as Western governments are warning Iran that if it fails to comply with their demands to make its nuclear programme ‘transparent’, it will face new sanctions.

As Iran was cementing its ties with Syria, the United States ratcheted up its threats of new sanctions and military attack.

In a ‘Wall Street Journal’ interview published last Friday, White House National Security Adviser, General James Jones, said the diplomatic door to resolving the conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme is ‘not going to stay open much longer’.

Despite Iran’s repeated insistence that its nuclear research is purely peaceful, General Jones said what the parties involved in negotiations with Iran wished most of all was that Iran’s leaders would ‘give a clear statement of policy with regard to their future ambitions concerning the development of nuclear weapons and and the delivery means to go with them’.

‘As long as there’s an open question on both of those issues, then Iran is just asking the world to trust them,’ Jones stated.

‘They think they can withstand anything the UN or the coalition of like-minded nations can put together. They might be right. They might be wrong.

‘If Iran pivots and does the right thing, whether it’s December 30 or January 20, that’s what everybody wants.’

The White House warned of ‘credible consequences’ if Iran continues with its nuclear programme.

The American administration signalled that Iran had until the end of the year to accept its offers of ‘diplomacy’ for resolving the nuclear and other issues.

Washington is raising the spectre of a fourth round of UN sanctions, but this would require the full support of its five negotiating partners – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Russia and China have been reluctant about imposing sanctions on Iran.

‘The offer of constructive engagement remains on the table, and we urge Iran to take concrete steps toward this course,’ the White House said in a statement.

‘If Iran continues to fail to bring its nuclear programme into full compliance with the requirements of the United Nations Security Council and the IAEA, there will be consequences,and we will be consulting closely with our partners to ensure those consequences are credible,’ the White House statement added.

EU leaders backed the White House threat of new sanctions against Iran.

‘Europe’s position is very clear, we need sanctions, this decision has been taken,’ said right-wing French President Nicolas Sarkozy after two days of talks among the leaders of the European Union’s 27 member states.

• The UN envoy to Afghanistan – one of Iran’s neighbours – is to leave his post.

A spokesman for Norway’s Kai Eide said he was not resigning, but would not try to stay on beyond the end of his two-year term in March.

This follows the uproar that greeted the decision to keep Hamid Karzai in his post as president of Afghanistan, despite the widespread condemnation of the elections as a fraud.

American President Barack Obama recently announced plans to send another 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan.

The UN mission to Afghanistan has been halved, with 600 staff temporarily evacuated.