The nuclear issue “is a very tiresome subject,” Ahmadinejad told journalists at a media breakfast at a midtown Manhattan hotel Monday morning. “Everyone knows Iran is not seeking” a nuclear weapon.
The whole issue begins “to resemble a comedy show,” Ahmadinejad continued. “Those accusing us have warehouses full” of nuclear weapons.
Ahmadinejad, on his eighth and perhaps final visit to New York as Iran’s president, looked subdued and somewhat weary at two appearances with journalists and think tank scholars in New York Monday.
In an effort to perhaps lighten the glum mood, the Iranian president shared a joke he said was making the rounds of Iranian school children–at the apparent expense of the six-nation group trying to negotiate a resolution to international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. “In Iran, the children come up with a joke for the P5+1,” he said. “‘How is it possible not to be able to add 5+1 for so many years?’”
Asked by a former American diplomat about the prospect of opening US-Iranian talks on the nuclear issue to bypass the somewhat cumbersome P5+1 format, Ahmadinejad, however, did not answer directly if he would support such an initiative.
“We all know the nuclear issue is a political issue,” Ahmadinejad said at the midday meeting with American think tank scholars and nuclear experts. “Not legal or technical. The problem is between the U.S. and Iran.”
It will be “resolved in political ways,” he further said. “I hope that day comes sooner than later.”
On the issue of Iran’s enrichment program, Ahmadinejad said Iran’s 3.5% enriched fuel is only for energy purposes, while its 20% enriched uranium is only for medical purposes. “It has no other use,” he said, as if tired of having to explain the same obvious point repeatedly. The International Atomic Energy Agency noted in a report last month that Iran has converted over half its 20% enriched uranium into fuel rods, thus shrinking its available stockpile of the fuel that could more quickly be purified to weapons grade.
The Iranian president, however, expressed bitterness and flashes of anger at recent Israeli government threats of possible strikes on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran was unconcerned about the damage the “Zionist regime” could inflict with “four bombs,” he said, but expressed dismay that the international community had not condemned such threats.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier warned Ahmadinejad against using inflammatory rhetoric about Israel at the UN, Ban’s press office said Monday.
But such admonition did not inhibit Ahmadinejad from expressing mystification Monday that, in his view, Israel could demand the United States issue red lines over Iran.
“At the end of the day, who is it who determines what the US government should do?” he asked. “Is it the Zionists?”
(Photo: Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the United Nations headquarters in New York September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)