Iran asserts its 'right' to enrichment

Gerdy Rees
8 September 2009

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated that he will not negotiate Iran's ‘obvious rights' to pursue a nuclear programme. In his first news conference since his re-election in June, Ahmadinejad asserted that Iran was ready to negotiate and cooperate with the international community on making ‘peaceful use of clean nuclear energy' available to all countries, but that any discussion on limiting Iran's atomic activities was finished.

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The ToD verdict: The statement is a rejection of the US-set deadline for Iran to agree to multilateral talks on ending its uranium enrichment programmes in return for trade benefits. Ahmadinejad has claimed that being given a deadline is contradictory to cooperation based on respect and justice and instead invited the six powers to consider Iranian proposals, to be released later this month, which he claims will address the ‘main challenges facing humanity.' Despite such an offer, the continued stalemate is likely to heighten mistrust from the international community over of Iran's nuclear designs and could provoke harsher economic sanctions. The US is expected to highlight Ahmadinejad's statement in its effort to persuade Russia and China to agree to sanctions which would target Iran's gasoline imports. Such sanctions could weaken Iran, which is one of the largest gasoline consumers in the world and relies on imports for 40% of its gasoline. However, the effects of sanctions may be diluted as Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, pledged on Sunday to supply Iran with 20,000 barrels of gasoline per day in return for technology and machinery.   

The US is also encouraging its allies in the Arab world to build up their military strength in order to deter Iran from continuing its nuclear programme. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said that ‘the more that our Arab friends and allies can strengthen their security capabilities, the more they can strengthen their co-operation, both with each other and with us.' Gates suggested that such a display of military power could persuade Iran to change its approach to nuclear enrichment as ‘moving down that path will actually jeopardize their security, not enhance it.'

Agreement allows cross-border pursuit of Lords Resistance Army

Ugandan intelligence units have been pursuing members of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) inside the Central African Republic for a month, an army official stated on Monday. Ugandan officials held a joint security meeting last month with representatives from the Central African Republic, southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It was agreed that the LRA, whose violence has spilt over several borders in its twenty year history, is a region-wide threat and that its members could be pursued across borders by the Ugandan army. Although the Ugandan army has fought the LRA in the DRC, this is the first time that the cross-border agreement has been made public.

Three killed in suicide attack at Afghan airbase

A car bomb exploded near the military entrance to Kabul's international airport on Tuesday morning, killing four civilians and wounding several more. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid maintained, was intended to strike a convoy of NATO soldiers. Mujahid also claimed responsibility for the attack on NATO headquarters in Kabul on 15 August which killed seven people and injured ninety-one, all of whom were civilians.  The attacks are seen as a test for the new NATO commander, General Stanley McChrystal, who has vowed to protect Afghan civilians.

Shi'ite students killed in Pakistan

Taliban militants attacked a group of schoolchildren en-route to their high school in north-west Pakistan on Tuesday morning, killing four and wounding three. A government official stated that local tribesmen retaliated by killing at least two of the militants and wounded several more near the region's main town of Kalaya. The attack took place in the Orakzai ethnic Pashtun tribal region, and it is believed that the students were targeted because they were minority Shi'ite Muslims. Members of the Taliban in Pakistan are from the Sunni community, which makes up seventy-five percent of the country's population, and have targeted Shi'ites as part of their ongoing strategy to fight the government.

Violence continues across Iraq

Two separate bomb attacks in Iraq killed ten people on Monday evening, bringing the total killed in bomb attacks across the country that day to nineteen. A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform killed six people and wounded 18 others when he struck at a Shi'ite Mosque in Baquba. Four others were killed by a bomb planted on a minibus heading for the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Kerbala. Violence continued today as a police chief and four officers were killed by a roadside bomb in the northern Iraqi town of Amirli, and a health ministry employee was killed, and four wounded, in a similar attack in eastern Baghdad.

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