April 4th, 2005
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami appealed Monday to the United States to
drop its opposition to his country's nuclear activities ¡ª programs Washington says
are directed at making weapons.
On an official visit to Austria, Khatami also expressed regret at the loss of American
lives in Iraq, but suggested the violence there was unleashed by the U.S. invasion
that led to Saddam Hussein's toppling nearly two years ago.
Iranian-American relations are frigid. US President Bush has listed the Islamic
Republic, along with North Korea and prewar Iraq, as forming an "axis of evil," and
Tehran regularly accuses the Bush administration of unwarranted hostility.
Khatami's appeal for U.S. acceptance of Iran's program and his comments about the
American deaths were thus in stark contrast to Iran's usual harsh anti-American
"We urge the Europeans as well as the Americans to support us ... in being able to
cover our electricity (needs) with the atom," said Khatami, whose comments in Farsi
were translated into German.
Terror and violence in Iraq is causing suffering not only to the local population but
"also the young Americans ... (who) fall there and are victims," he said after meeting
with Heinz Fischer, his Austrian counterpart.
President of Iran Mohammad Khatami speaks during a press
conference after his talks with Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer, on
Monday, April 4, 2005, at Vienna's Hofburg palace. Khatami is in
Vienna for a one-day working visit. [AP]
The softer tone was possibly an effort to sway the European Union during talks the Europeans hope will lead to Iran committing to indefinitely
suspend work on uranium enrichment.
But despite the mild language, Khatami continued to insist on Iran's right to enrichment which can create both fuel for energy and the core of
nuclear weapons saying his country's "rights" to the technology were guaranteed by international laws.
Iran has been under intense international scrutiny since the discovery more than two years ago that it had been conducting clandestine work
on nuclear enrichment for nearly two decades.
Iran has suspended enrichment and related activities while it negotiates with France, Germany and Britain ¡ª talks which the three European
powers hope will lead to a permanent end to enrichment. But throughout the talks, Iran has insisted its freeze is temporary and short-term.
Confirming Iranian reports, Israeli officials in Jerusalem and diplomats
based in Vienna said Monday that Iran recently offered to give EU
inspectors or experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency full
access to all Iranian nuclear sites if it were allowed to run approximately
3,000 centrifuges the key enrichment equipment.
An Israeli official said Israeli Brig. Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser told a
meeting of the Israeli foreign affairs and defense committee in parliament
that the Iranians pledged to keep the level of enrichment at 3.5 percent ¡ª
far below the 90 percent-plus needed to make nuclear weapons.
The Europeans appeared eager to consider the proposal, Kupperwasser
was quoted as saying. But the diplomats in Vienna ¡ª who like the Israelis
demanded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations
¡ª said France, Germany and Britain continued to insist on full and
Khatami was scheduled to meet with French President Jacques Chirac in
Paris on Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting of the U.N. Education
Scientific and Cultural Organization. Chirac and Khatami were likely to
focus on the nuclear negotiations.
On Iraq, Khatami said it had become "a center for terrorist and violent
activities" only following the U.S.-led invasion. He said his country
supported efforts to establish a pluralistic government in the neighboring
country that is "not subject to pressure from outside."
Austrian President Heinz Fischer, right, welcomes his counterpart from Iran
Mohammad Khatami for talks, on Monday, April 4, 2005, at Vienna's
Hofburg palace. [AP]