Ahmadinejad says Iran does not need nukes

Updated 15 April 2013
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Ahmadinejad says Iran does not need nukes

COTONOU, Benin: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday defended his country’s controversial nuclear program while on a tour of west Africa, calling it peaceful and arguing that Tehran has no use for an atomic bomb.
Speaking during a visit to Benin, the first stop on a three-nation tour, Ahmadinejad called nuclear energy a “divine gift” providing affordable electricity.
“They accuse Iran, like all nations that seek to rapidly find their way out of the current domination,” the Iranian leader said through an interpreter in a speech at a Benin university.
“We don’t need an atomic bomb. ... And besides, it is not atomic bombs that threaten the world, but Western morals and culture declining in values.”
Western powers suspect Tehran of covertly developing the capacity to produce a nuclear bomb.
Iran denies this and says its program is for energy and medical purposes.
On Tuesday, Iran unveiled a new uranium production facility and two mines, only days after talks with world powers on its nuclear program again ended in deadlock.
Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Benin on Sunday night, left Monday afternoon for neighboring Niger, one of the world’s top producers of uranium.
Iran needs uranium for its nuclear program, and Niger has recently criticized a longstanding agreement with France — which gets most of its uranium from the former colony — demanding a bigger share of the profits from uranium ore mining.
Uranium from landlocked Niger is trucked to Benin ports for export, but Benin’s foreign minister has insisted that uranium was not on the agenda for his Benin visit.
Talks in Benin focused particularly on energy, agriculture and education, Benin officials said.
Ahmadinejad will travel to Ghana on Tuesday following his visit to Niger for the final leg of the tour.
Speaking to journalists at the airport before his departure, Ahmadinejad said the uranium mines inaugurated last week in Iran should “be more than enough for the ambitions of my country.”
During his speech at the university, Ahmadinejad condemned what he called colonialist thinking from wealthy nations that exploit poorer countries.
“Colonialist thinking has not yet disappeared,” he said. “Only the method has changed, but the system is still there.”
“To save their economy, they impose war everywhere to cover their failure, the failure of the capitalist system,” said Ahmadinejad, who is due to leave office after June elections.
In Niger, the Iranian president’s visit was being welcomed by those who said the impoverished country should search for new partners in the sale of its uranium.
“We must from now on adhere to policies in our own interests, in selling our uranium to who we want, including Iran,” Nouhou Arzika, a prominent civil society activist in Niger, told AFP.
Niger’s foreign minister visited Tehran in February. The African country is the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium.
The head of the student union at Niger’s University of Niamey welcomed the Iranian leader’s visit. The union previously organized a protest against French nuclear energy giant Areva.
“We are a sovereign state and will deal with who we want,” Mahamadou Djibo Samaila told reporters.
“Our uranium, our oil, we are going to sell them to who we want.”
Iran’s relations with African countries have not always been smooth.
A diplomatic dispute hurt ties between Iran and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, when weapons shipped from Iran were seized at a Lagos port in October 2010.
An alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard member was accused of being one of the suspects behind the shipment, which Iran said was destined for Gambia, though Banjul denied being the intended recipient. The weapons had been labelled as building materials.


Israel warns Syrians away from frontier as Assad closes in

Updated 21 min 23 sec ago
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Israel warns Syrians away from frontier as Assad closes in

  • The Syrians who approached the fence were 200 meters away, when an Israeli soldier told them to leave
  • The crowd, which included women and children, then walked back slowly toward the refugee encampment

GOLAN HEIGHTS: Dozens of Syrians approached the Israeli frontier on the Golan Heights on Tuesday in an apparent attempt to seek help or sanctuary from a Russian-backed Syrian army offensive, before turning back after a warning from Israeli forces.
Tens of thousands of Syrians have arrived near the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in the past month, fleeing a rapidly advancing offensive which has defeated rebels across a swathe of territory near Jordan and Israel.
“Go back before something bad happens. If you want us to be able to help you, go back,” an Israeli army officer on the Israeli side of a frontier fence told the crowd in Arabic through a megaphone. “Get a move on.”
The offensive has triggered the single biggest displacement of the war, with several hundred thousand people uprooted. Both Israel and Jordan have said they will not allow Syrians to cross into their territory.
Israel, which seized the Golan in the 1967 Middle East War, has given humanitarian aid to refugees in encampments close to a 1974 Israeli-Syrian disengagement line. Many of the displaced are sheltering within the disengagement zone that is monitored by a UN force.
The Syrians who approached the frontier fence stopped some 200 meters (yards) away, before an Israeli soldier told them to leave.
“You are on the border of the State of Israel. Go back, we don’t want to hurt you,” the soldier shouted in Arabic through a loudspeaker at the crowd, live Reuters TV footage showed.
The crowd, which included women and children, then walked back slowly toward the refugee encampment. Some stopped mid-way and waved white cloths in the direction of the Israeli frontier.
The Russian-backed offensive has advanced swiftly, unopposed by President Bashar Assad’s foreign adversaries. The United States, which once armed the southern rebels, told them not to expect it to intervene as the attack got underway last month.
A witness on the Syrian side of the Golan frontier said the sound of bombardment was drawing ever nearer. The United Nations said last week up to 160,000 Syrians had fled to Quneitra province, some in close proximity to the Golan area.

Government forces celebrate
Israel has threatened a harsh response to any attempt by Syrian forces to deploy in the disengagement zone, complicating the government offensive as it draws closer to the frontier.
Israel does not want its enemies Iran and Hezbollah, both allies of Assad, to move forces near its border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking alongside US President Donald Trump on Monday, cited the need to restore the situation along the Golan borders to the state that prevailed before the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011.
At least 14 people, including five children and some women, were killed when Syrian government forces dropped a barrel bomb on the village of Ain Al-Tineh 10 km (6 miles) from the Golan frontier, according to UOSSM, a medical aid charity that operates in the area.
Ahmad Al-Dbis, UOSSM safety and security manager, said another 35 people had been wounded in the attack which he said had hit a school. The casualties had fled to the village from nearby parts of the southwest.
Syrian state TV broadcast from a hilltop captured from rebels on Monday and overlooking the Golan frontier. Government fighters waved rifles and held aloft pictures of Assad as they celebrated on camera from the location, Al-Haara hill.
“We will liberate all Syria,” said one of the soldiers.