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Iran signals defiance ahead of nuke talks

world Updated: Dec 06, 2010 01:34 IST

Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Saturday that Iran hoped for “constructive talks” with world powers on Monday and Tuesday, but left little doubt that the gaps between the two sides remain almost insurmountable.

Speaking to a security forum here one day after US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton assured the same gathering of a “good-faith” effort in the negotiations, Mottaki was by turns caustic and defiant, both on stage and at a news conference. He insisted Iran had no interest in possessing a nuclear weapon, that sanctions had had “no impact” and that the real problem in the region was a “Zionist regime” that had “hundreds of nuclear warheads in occupied Palestine”.

Putting a uniquely Iranian spin on the US midterm elections, Mottaki noted that President Barack Obama had been elected on a motto of “change”. But vis-a-vis Iran and the Islamic world, he said, speaking through an interpreter, “we believe that the policies of President Obama are a continuation of President Bush’s policies – policies that Americans voted against. In the midterm elections, Americans also opposed those policies”.

Yet for all Mottaki’s seeming confidence, the gathering of 600 Arab leaders, diplomats and other officials underscored how isolated Iran has become in the Persian Gulf region as the impasse over its nuclear ambitions drags on. The undercurrent of Mottaki’s remarks appeared designed to rebut the disclosure, in the WikiLeaks posting of State Department cables last week, that Arab officials have privately urged a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“We must not submit to pressures on the region by outsiders that divide us and create instability,” Mottaki urged the gathering, known as the Manama Dialogue, which is organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “In the region, it has been proved that foreign intervention creates unhealthy rivalries between neighbors.”

But the cables revealed that often it was the Arabs who were urging on reluctant Americans, not the other way around.

In exclusive partnership with Washington Post