Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Fukuda asks Iran to stop uranium enrichment, but Ahmadinejad refuses

Wednesday 04th June, ROME — Japan Today

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda asked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday to make the ‘‘bold decision’’ to stop Tehran’s uranium enrichment activities, but Ahmadinejad refused to do so, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

In their talks in Rome on the sidelines of a U.N. meeting on food security, Ahmadinejad said his government will continue to try to gain the safe release of a Japanese man who was kidnapped last October in Iran, while Fukuda thanked him for the efforts, the official said.

On bilateral ties, Fukuda expressed hope that the two countries would be able to build a closer relationship, but said Iran’s nuclear activities are preventing such move and asked Ahmadinejad to respond to international calls for it to give up its nuclear ambitions.

‘‘I have one request, which is to ask for the courageous decision to stop uranium enrichment,’’ Fukuda was quoted by the official as saying to Ahmadinejad.

But the Iranian president flatly denied the request, saying he wonders why Tehran will have to do so and adding that he has a better idea which is for countries that currently possess nuclear weapons to move toward armament reduction, according to the official.

The Japanese leader said Iran’s window to the international community will be opened if it decides to give up its uranium enrichment activities and that Japan will be able to provide cooperation.

Ahmadinejad explained he fully understands that nuclear arms that meet the International Atomic Energy Agency’s standards are low in efficiency and unusable, the official said.

Fukuda responded that he ‘‘heard a good story’’ and that he will take note that Iran is not conducting the enrichment activities toward building nuclear weapons, according to the official.

The official indicated it was rare for a Japanese prime minister to ask Iran to stop its uranium enrichment activities in such a direct way as comments on the matter made in the past had simply referred to related U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Iran has been continuing its uranium enrichment activities in defiance of Security Council calls on the country to halt them, denying allegations that it seeks to make nuclear bombs and insisting its nuclear program is for peaceful power generation.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Tehran since late 2006 for refusing to halt enrichment work. The latest was in early March. (Continues here)


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