U.S. Rejects Ahmadinejad's Call To Choose Between Israel and Iran

By Natasha Mozgovaya (Haaretz) and Haaretz Service and Agencies

Published November 13, 2009.
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The United States on Friday rejected a call by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for it to choose between supporting Israel or Iran.

“Israel is a very, very close friend of the U.S., and we don’t think we have to choose between Israel or any other country,” State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.

Ahmadinejad told a conference in Turkey on Wednesday that that U.S. President Barack Obama should make a choice in order to fulfill his campaign promise of change.

In his briefing on Friday, Kelly added: “We want to have productive, meaningful relations with all countries in the region.”

Earlier Friday, Obama and Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama the governments said in a joint statement that Iran and North Korea must uphold their international obligations on their nuclear programs.

The statement added that the governments of the U.S. and Japan welcomed “the renewed international attention and commitment to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and confirm their determination to realize such a world.”

Iran’s chief of staff, meanwhile, told the French news agency AFP on Friday that Iran should advance the Un-drafted deal that will see Tehran sending uranium to be enriched abroad, adding that such a move would prove the peaceful intentions of the country’s nuclear program.

“In obtaining fuel enriched to 20 percent purity for the Tehran reactor, a million of our citizens will benefit from the medical treatment it can enable and we will prove at the same time the bona fides of our peaceful nuclear activities.” Hassan Firouzabadi said.

Hassan Firouzabadi was thus referring to a proposed transfer of about 1.2 tons of low-enriched uranium that Iran produces in Natanz to Russia, where it would be enriched to 20 percent, then transferred to France for industrial processing, after which it would be returned to the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

The UN-drafted deal was drawn up in an attempt to assuage international fears that Iran could divert some of its uranium stocks and enrich them further to a weapon’s grade enrichment levels.

Although Iranian officials had claimed that the proposed deal could cause a shortage of nuclear fuel, thus doing Iran more harm than good, the country’s army chief said Tehran would not”suffer from an exchange of fuel.”

“The quantity of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent that will be shipped out in order to obtain the fuel is not so large as to cause damage,” he added.

Last week, a powerful hard-line Iranian cleric, Ahmad Khatami, said the UN nuclear watchdog is legally obliged to provide Iran with nuclear fuel for its research reactor without setting any conditions, such as shipping some of its uranium to be enriched out of the country.

In an attack on the UN-drafted deal regarding Tehran’s nuclear program, Khatami saked: “Why should we send our low enriched uranium abroad? … who can guarantee that you will then provide us with the needed fuel?”

Katami also said Iran had no intention of yielding to the West’s pressure over its nuclear program.

“No one has traded over the Iranian nation’s legitimate nuclear right,” said the cleric in the sermon, which was broadcast live.

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