U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday voiced willingness in separate addresses to pursue further dialogue aimed at resolving an international dispute over Iran's nuclear program, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Sept. 23).
"Let me be clear once more: the United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it," Obama said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly.
"But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment, and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program," Obama said. Tehran has consistently denied allegations by Washington and other governments that its nuclear program is geared toward weapons development.
In a speech to the same body, Ahmadinejad expressed willingness to join new negotiations while insisting his stance was not a result of international political or economic coercion.
"We have never submitted to illegally imposed pressures nor will we ever do so. It has been said that they want to pressure Iran into a dialogue," Ahmadinejad said.
"Firstly, Iran has always been ready for a dialogue based on respect and justice. Secondly, methods based on disrespecting nations have long become ineffective" (Lachlan Carmichael, Agence France-Presse I/Google News, Sept. 23).
The Iranian leader accused some countries of seeking to squelch Tehran's nuclear energy program as "they have continued to maintain, expand and upgrade their own nuclear arsenals."
Ahmadinejad called for 2011 to be dedicated nuclear disarmament: "nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none" (Agence France-Presse II/Google News, Sept. 23).
The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany might hold new talks with Iran this autumn in Geneva, Switzerland, or Vienna, Austria, according to two diplomats representing the six world powers (AFP II).
"If [EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton] contacts the Iranian representative she can set a time for talks," Ahmadinejad said today (Agence France-Presse III/Spacewar.com, Sept. 24).
Russia encouraged Tehran to respond to international overtures regarding its nuclear program, RIA Novosti reported today.
"We hope that the signal has been noticed. There are signs that Tehran is seriously considering our proposals," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said (RIA Novosti I, Sept. 24).
Lavrov declined to speculate on whether the Security Council would impose additional economic penalties against Iran. The body in June adopted its fourth sanctions resolution aimed at pressuring the Persian Gulf nation to halt its sensitive nuclear activities, and a number of countries and the European Union have since taken additional punitive measures toward the same end.
"There has long been a general consensus about the need to abide by the humanitarian limits of sanctions, and to prevent these measures from adversely affecting either the civilian population or the country's socio-economic development," Lavrov told the General Assembly. "However, we must express our serious concern over individual countries' persistently taking unilateral forcible measures ... exceeding the provisions set out in the U.N. Charter and the decisions made by the Security Council. We believe that this practice must be stopped" (RIA Novosti II, Sept. 23).
Experts praised Washington's coordination of sanctions against Iran, but warned the economic pressure might still not be sufficient to sway Tehran's atomic policy, the Boston Globe reported.
"You have got to hand it to the Obama administration. They have done a very good job with the sanctions," American Enterprise Institute analyst Michael Rubin said. "The question that Americans have to ask is: Can we raise the cost so high that the Iranians back down? ... We’re not there yet."
Iranian hard-liners might complicate attempts to defuse the nuclear standoff, said Mostafa Beshkar, a University of New Hampshire assistant professor of economics.
"If Ahmadinejad’s government goes back to the negotiation table, he has competitors in Iran who might say that he is not competent because he cannot fight with the West," he said (Farah Stockman, Boston Globe, Sept. 24).
Meanwhile, Iran withdrew its candidacy for a seat on the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation governing board when it failed to obtain unanimous backing from regional governments, AFP reported (Agence France-Presse III/Google News, Sept. 23).
Elsewhere, Moscow offered assurance that newly finalized limitations on military exports to Iran would not affect Russian support for the country's Bushehr nuclear power plant, RIA Novosti reported.
"We have never considered any restrictions (on the Bushehr construction), because the Bushehr project is being implemented under the full supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and nobody has ever questioned this project," Kremlin foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko said (RIA Novosti III, Sept. 23).
Iran hosts 60 percent of the world's computers infected by a new, sophisticated computer worm, the U.S. computer security firm Symantec Corp. indicated today. Systems at the Bushehr plant were among those infected by the "Stuxnet" worm.
"It's pretty clear that based on the infection behavior that installations in Iran are being targeted," Reuters quoted Symantec Senior Director Kevin Hogan as saying (William Maclean, Reuters, Sept. 24).