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Iranian President Talks Tough About New EU Sanctions

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top officials used tough language against new EU sanctions adopted against their country Monday, but signaled Tehran is prepared to resume negotiations on its controversial nuclear program in September.

It was a day of harsh rhetoric from Iranian leaders, but the final message appears to be Tehran is willing to resume negotiations over its nuclear program in September, after the holy month of Ramadan.

Iranian government TV showed President Ahmadinejad, parliament speaker Ali Larijani and Oil Minister Masud Mir Kazemi fiercely criticizing new EU sanctions and insisting the measures would have no effect on Tehran.

Analyst Wayne White speaks with VOA's Susan Yackee:

Mir Kazemi said Iran does not buy many petroleum products from Europe, so the new EU sanctions "do not matter."  Larijani also slammed the sanctions, saying that "Iran's enemies are mounting a new conspiracy, but that the will of the Iranian people is too strong for them."

Mr. Ahmadinejad went a step further, alluding to an imminent attack by the United States against two countries in the Middle East, which he did not name.  

He says the United States wants to prevent Iran's progress with the pretext of the nuclear issue, but that Tehran continues to make progress in various scientific fields.  He also complains that the U.S. is not telling the truth about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, and is trying to defend Israel and insure its survival.

The Iranian president said his country, however, is ready to "resume nuclear talks with the West, starting in September."  He added that Turkey and Brazil, which tried in May to resurrect a nuclear fuel swap deal from last year, be included in the talks.

Analyst Ali Nourizadeh of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London believes Iranian leaders, beneath the bluster of their verbal attacks on the West, are deeply worried by the new U.S., U.N. and European Union sanctions and are ready to negotiate without preconditions.

"You can see that they are worried," said Nourizadeh.  "You can see the touch of fear.  Although they are trying to say that nothing is going to happen, and nothing is going to force them to change their policy, if you have some sort of experience reading between the lines, you realize that they are really worried.  Although they are talking tough and challenging the international community, at the end of the day, the messages sent indirectly to the West is Iran is ready to negotiate, and this time without any conditions."

Iranian-born analyst Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute in Washington concurs with Nourizadeh that Iran has been sending out signals it is ready to negotiate without pre-conditions, and he argues EU sanctions may have forced them to be more realistic:

"The U.N. sanctions and the European Union sanctions are something new, and for the Iranians to use the same rhetoric that they have used against American-imposed sanctions seems to be nothing more than bravado," Vatanka.  "If sanctions were not important, one has to question why Iran keeps saying that these sanctions the European Union has imposed are illegal and unjust."

The new EU sanctions are similar to unilateral U.S. sanctions imposed in June, following a fourth round of U.N. Security Council sanctions, earlier in the month.  The sanctions are aimed at forcing Iran to resume negotiations over its controversial nuclear program.

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