A top Iranian cleric lauded President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for bravely taking Iran's message about its nuclear program to the U.N. His comments follow the Iranian foreign minister's invitation to the United States and other members of the U.N. Security Council to dinner Thursday night.
A top cleric blasted the U.S. and what he called its historic animosity towards the Islamic Republic, highlighting Tehran's defiance in a dispute with the West over its atomic activities .
Hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami praised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his "courage" in visiting the U.N. and presenting Iran's case over its nuclear program. Khatami also accused the U.S. and other Western countries of bullying Tehran:
He says that the president's message was that of a proud people proclaimed in the midst of arrogant nations at the U.N. conference demanding Iran's rights. He also calls the U.S. the Great Satan and brands it a nuclear criminal for using nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Ahmadinejad's trip was a success, he claims, because it angered the West.
The United States is lobbying U.N. Security Council members to back a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, to press it into curbing sensitive nuclear work the West suspects is aimed at making bomb. Iranian leaders insist that their nuclear program is intended for peaceful civilian purposes.
Khatami also urged the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to allow Iran to enter the club of nuclear nations.
According to news reports, Iran's foreign minister has ruled out any possibility that his country will stop enriching uranium. Manouchehr Mottaki reportedly told U.N. Security Council diplomats at Thursday's dinner meeting in New York that Iran has the right to pursue atomic technology.
His comments followed a public relations effort this week by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - including appearances on several American television programs - to show that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing energy, not nuclear weapons.
Mehrdad Khonsari of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London argues that Iran is using two different languages, but that its main goal is to fend off any new round of sanctions.
"I think it's the old story of the Islamic regime speaking with a forked tongue. On the one hand, Mr. Khatami in the Friday prayer meeting stresses the hardline position of the system and the animosity between the system and the United States, while Mr. Ahmadinejad first, and then Mr. Mottaki, try to convey a double-edged message to the American authorities that while they have strong views, there is still a measure of flexibility on their part in order to try and avert the imposition of new sanctions. And, this strategy of inviting the Security Council ambassadors to dinner to start a round of dialogue is aimed at trying to prevent the Security Council from reaching a conclusive decision regarding the imposition of new sanctions and delaying the process," he said.
Khonsari also points out that Iranian leaders are trying to project a position of strength to their own domestic audience, while leaving the door open to potential concessions towards the West.