PRESIDENT Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday that Iran’s arch-foe Israel was mulling starting a war ‘next spring or summer’ but has yet to make a final decision.
Without specifying whom would be targeted, Ahmadinejad said: ‘But the resistance and regional states will finish them if this fake regime does anything again,’ the Iranian President said at a press conference when asked about ongoing efforts to reconcile ties between Arabs and Israel.
Ahmadinejad also warned on Tuesday that world powers would regret any moves to slap new sanctions on Iran, while stressing Tehran was still ready for a UN-brokered nuclear fuel exchange deal.
Ahmadinejad’s latest salvo at world powers came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton toured the Gulf to earn backing for possible sanctions against Iran for defiantly pursuing its nuclear program.
‘If anybody seeks to create problems for Iran, our response will not be like before,’ the Iranian president told a packed news conference in the capital Tehran.
‘Something in response will be done which will make them (the world powers) regret’ their move, he said.
Ahmadinejad said negotiations over a UN-drafted nuclear fuel exchange were ‘not closed yet,’ and expressed readiness to buy the material even from Iran’s arch-foe the United States.
Last year the International Atomic Energy Agency proposed sending Iranian low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad for further enrichment, denying Tehran refining capacity powers fear could be used to help build an atomic bomb.
The offer would have seen the uranium returned to Iran in a high grade form for use in a Tehran medical research reactor, but the plan has been rejected by the Islamic republic.
Ahmadinejad insisted on Tuesday that the exchange had to be ‘simultaneous,’ a stance repeated by several other Iranian officials and which has led to a deadlock over the deal. ‘The proposal for the fuel exchange is not closed yet. We have announced that we will exchange within a just framework,’ Ahmadinejad said.
‘We are ready for an exchange even with the United States. The US can come and give us their 20 per cent fuel and we will pay them if they want, or we can give them 3.5 per cent fuel.
‘But the swap should take place simultaneously and we will put our fuel under the supervision of the (UN atomic) agency in Iran,’ he added without clarifying whether the exchange must take place inside the country as insisted by other Iranian officials.
Ahmadinejad also indicated Tehran could suspend enriching uranium to the 20 per cent level if world powers supplied it the required fuel for the Tehran reactor.
‘We are not insisting on doing this (20 per cent enrichment) although we have the capability. If they supplied the (uranium enriched to) 20 per cent, the situation may change,’ he said in answer to a question if Iran would stop the enrichment started last week.’
Iran announced on February 9 that it had begun work on enriching the uranium to 20 per cent level.
Ahmadinejad’s comments came after Russia, an ally of Iran, said Tehran should improve its cooperation with the IAEA and that new sanctions were not excluded if it fails to fulfil its obligations.
‘On the subject of sanctions. . . Russia still believes that Iran should more actively and broadly cooperate with the IAEA and other countries,’ Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman said.
‘If these obligations are not fulfiled no one can exclude the application of sanctions,’ the spokeswoman Natalia Timakova told reporters in Moscow.
Meanwhile, a senior Iranian official said on Tuesday that Iran wants to build up its nuclear energy program and provide power plants and nuclear fuel to its neighbours.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, said Iran wanted to break through Western reluctance to supply the Middle East with a much-needed energy source for when oil supplies dwindle.
‘We are going to help other nations in the region, we are going to help anyone who wants,’ Larijani told journalists.
‘And this is an area where we want to invest, we want to be the one who provides nuclear power plants and fuel for other countries,’ he added.
Larijani said that an Iranian nuclear capability would be ‘an asset for the region’ and allow it to break a western ‘monopoly’ over nuclear energy.
‘If countries were not allowed to sell the required fuel to Iran we will make it ourselves,’ he added.
‘We are ready to help Turkey, Saudis, the Emirates, Kuwait if they need. I am sure the western countries are not going to give to these states. Egypt is dying for this electricity,’ said Larijani.
‘We can even collectively build fuel for our reactors – this is a need, this is a must for our nations in the region.
‘If we don’t move today, 20 years from now we will beg on our knees in front of the western countries to sell to us,’ Larijani added.
The Iranian official said such a trade would be placed under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog.