Iranian President Says Tehran Could Withdraw From Nuclear Treaty
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran could consider pulling out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Iranian leader also rejected the threat of sanctions over its refusal to stop its nuclear enrichment program...

By Challiss McDonough, VOA News Cairo
Posted Monday, April 24, 2006

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again rejected a U.N. Security Council demand to freeze Iran's nuclear program, and said he doubts that the international community will impose sanctions.

The Iranian leader spoke to the international and domestic press for several hours at a rare news conference in Tehran just four days before the U.N. deadline for Iran to stop all nuclear enrichment activity. The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency is set to report to the Security Council Friday on Iran's compliance.

Speaking through a translator, Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran's policy is to work with the agency under the auspices of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But he said if the agency does not respect Iran's rights, "we could reconsider."

"The agency has to conduct itself in a just fashion. It has to give a report to member countries," he said. " After 30 years of membership, what have you given us?"

Iran maintains that it has the right to peaceful nuclear technology under international law. Western nations fear Tehran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, an allegation that Mr. Ahmadinejad again rejected.

He also said he doubts that the U.N Security Council will impose sanctions on Iran.

"I think that it is highly unlikely that they are so irrational to do so," he said. "The two or three countries that are very much against us, I think that they are rational enough not to make such a great mistake."

Mr. Ahmadinejad said sanctions would hurt the countries that imposed them more than they would hurt Iran.

The Iranian president announced earlier this month that Tehran has succeeded in enriching uranium to the level needed for nuclear power plants. Other Iranian officials say they plan to expand the enrichment program before the end of the year.

On a different topic, the Iranian leader said that now that Iraq has a government, he no longer sees any need for direct talks between Iran and the United States. He had previously said he was open to such talks in an effort to quell the violence in neighboring Iraq. The United States and Iran severed diplomatic relations in 1979.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's news conference was long and wide-ranging, lasting for several hours. It is the second time since he took office that he has taken questions from the international news media.

In his hour-long opening statement, he renewed his criticism of Israel, calling it a "fake regime" and blaming its creation on European anti-Semitism. He said Israeli Jews should go back to the countries they came from.

Mr. Ahmedinejad sparked international criticism last year when he said Israel should be "wiped off the map."

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