A top Iranian official says the world should negotiate with Iran, instead of issuing Security Council statements on Tehran's nuclear ambitions. In a rare interview with an American television network, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency defended his nation's stand on the nuclear issue.
The envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, says the international community should negotiate with Iran, rather than pushing the nuclear issue to the point of confrontation.
In an interview recorded Friday and broadcast Sunday on CNN's Late Edition program, he restated Iran's opposition to a statement issued last week by the U.N. Security Council. In that document, council members called for the Iranian government to suspend uranium enrichment activity within 30 days.
Soltanieh said his country will not be threatened.
"It is better, rather than using the language of threat, to talk about the peaceful settlement of all issues, including the nuclear issue," said Ali Asghar Soltanieh. "We have always invited our European friends and others to come to the negotiating table, rather than pushing the issue to the confrontation and battlement."
He said, once again, that Iran's nuclear program is designed solely to generate electricity for civilian use. But the United States and others have argued that it is a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.
In a live appearance on Late Edition, a prominent member of the U.S. Senate - Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska - said Iran represents a real security threat. He noted the White House has authorized limited contacts with Tehran on the subject of Iraq, and urged the Bush administration to hold direct talks on the nuclear dispute, as well.
"I do not know how you conduct diplomacy, I do not know how you deal with these great complicated issues of our time, unless you talk to people," said Chuck Hagel.
He took note of a front page story in Sunday's Washington Post newspaper, which quotes unnamed U.S. intelligence officials as being wary of military action against Iran, because it might unleash terrorist attacks worldwide.
Appearing on the same program, Senator Evan Bayh agreed the risk would be high. The Indiana Democrat added, however, that the consequences of a nuclear armed Iran are even greater. He likened the situation to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
"What we need to do today is very much like John Kennedy did with Cuba when there was an attempt to put nuclear weapons there - seek to make Iran a pariah state, with an economic, financial, political embargo of that country," said Evan Bayh.
He said an embargo is the best way to avoid two unacceptable alternatives: a nuclear armed Iran and military action against that country, which could unleash a worldwide wave of terrorism.
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