Era of using nuclear weapons is over: Ahmadinejad
* Iranian president says open to talks with Obama on forging peace
* Dismisses US election as ‘battleground for the capitalists’
NUSA DUA: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday the age of nuclear deterrence was long gone and any country still stockpiling nuclear weapons was “mentally retarded”.
He again denied Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons, a day after the re-election victory of U.S. President Barack Obama, for whom Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme will be one of the thornier foreign policy issues of his second term. “The period and era of using nuclear weapons is over. Nuclear bombs are not anymore helpful and those who are stockpiling nuclear weapons, politically they are backward, and they are mentally retarded,” Ahmadinejad told reporters at a forum to promote democracy on the Indonesian island of Bali.
“The Iranian nation is not seeking an atomic bomb, nor do they need to build an atomic bomb ... For defending ourselves we do not need a nuclear weapon,” said Ahmadinejad. He added that representatives of any government or agency could visit the Islamic Republic to verify that it was not developing nuclear weapons. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for peaceful energy purposes but it restricts access for U.N. nuclear inspectors and concealed some sensitive sites from them in the past. The West has imposed increasingly harsh and far-reaching sanctions on Iran over suspicions it is trying to design a nuclear weapon in secret. Sanctions include curbs on imports of the OPEC member’s oil and on its sources of financing, battering its economy this year and putting Ahmadinejad under pressure.
The hardline conservative president said he was open to talks with Obama on forging peace around the world and called for the dismantling of all US military bases abroad. Obama’s re-election may open an opportunity for new negotiations with Iran on agreeing constraints to its nuclear programme, with sanctions piling economic pressure on its theocratic leaders. Obama’s Republican rival in the presidential election, Mitt Romney, had pledged a more hawkish approach to Iran had he won. Ahmadinejad dismissed the US election as a “battleground for the capitalists”.
Iran’s first nuclear power plant will become fully operational by early 2013, its energy minister was quoted as saying, more than two months after Russia said it was up and running normally following decades of delay.
The plant near the town of Bushehr on Iran’s Gulf coast is a symbol of what Tehran says is its peaceful nuclear ambitions. The West suspects the Islamic Republic is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability and imposed tough sanctions on it. However, the Bushehr reactor is not considered a serious proliferation threat by nuclear inspectors. Their main concern is focused on sites where Iran enriches nuclear fuel, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions demanding it stop. The reason for the apparent discrepancy on the status of Bushehr was not made clear in the comments by Energy Minister Najid Namjou, in a report carried by the English-language Iran Daily on Thursday, or whether it meant any new delay for the Russian-built complex. Russian builder NIAEP - part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom - last month said that Bushehr would be formally “handed over for use” to Iran in March 2013, whereas earlier officials had said that would happen by the end of this year. reuters