Iran's President Expresses Hope for More Nuclear Talks
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Iran's president dismissed a fusillade of criticism on Friday over his inflammatory speech at the United Nations a day earlier, in which he asserted that most people believed the United States orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks.
But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also offered a conciliatory gesture on his country's nuclear program, expressing hope that negotiations could resume as early as next month over a deal that would involve a swap of enriched uranium. The talks could restart a diplomatic process that collapsed last year and led to a fourth round of sanctions against Iran in June.
In his address on Thursday, which focused on what he portrayed as the collapse of the capitalist world order, Mr. Ahmadinejad cited conspiracy theories speculating that the United States had set up the Sept. 11 attacks to revive its economy and assert its influence over the Middle East. The comments prompted a walkout by the representatives of the United States and dozens of other nations and criticism from world leaders.
On Friday, President Obama called Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments "hateful" and "offensive" in an interview with the BBC's Persian-language news service, and the British deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said they were "bizarre, offensive and attention-grabbing pronouncements" aimed at deflecting the dialogue away from concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
"His remarks were intended to distract attention from Iran's obligations and to generate media headlines," Mr. Clegg said Friday in a speech to the General Assembly.
But Mr. Ahmadinejad seemed surprised by the response to his speech. "Did I say anything wrong?" he asked reporters at a Midtown Manhattan hotel. He argued that his comments would be unlikely to have any bearing on diplomatic efforts on Iran's nuclear program. "What does this have to do with the nuclear issue? It has no connection to it."
Mr. Ahmadinejad said that representatives from Iran and the group of nations pressing it over its nuclear ambitions would meet shortly to discuss a framework for future negotiations.
"We hope that by October they will be resumed," he said.
But senior American and Western officials said that despite Mr. Ahmadinejad's statements, they would wait to see what response Iran gave to negotiators. Attempts to contact the Iranians previously to set a specific date had been in vain, they said.
The talks have centered on an arrangement in which Iran would send much of its low-enriched uranium stockpiles abroad in exchange for specialized nuclear fuel that would be used in a medical research reactor in Tehran.
First Published September 25, 2010 2:01 am