New Iran leader defends nuclear aims

Iran's president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has insisted that his country has the right to pursue its nuclear programme and that the Islamic republic does not need relations with the United States.

    Ahmadinejad pledged to talk with the European Union

    But the surprise winner of Iran's second-round presidential election also said on Sunday that Tehran would continue nuclear talks with the European Union and show moderation in its foreign and domestic policy.

    "Moderation will be the main policy of the government of 70 million people," the conservative Ahmadinejad told his first news conference since winning the presidency. "There will be no place for extremism.

    "This government will be a government of friendship and compassion. This government will be a government of justice and fairness in the service of the people... whatever views they have."

    But the 49-year-old mayor of Tehran said Iran does "not really need" to restore relations with the United States, which were broken off a quarter of a century ago after the Islamic revolution.

    Ahmadinejad won the presidential
    runoff handsomely on Friday

    "Iran is on a path of progress and elevation, and does not really need the United States on this path," he said, but added: "We can work with any country in the world that does not show animosity to Iran."

    A possible resumption of dialogue between Tehran and Washington was floated by his defeated presidential rival, the moderate conservative Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

    'Peaceful' nuclear programme

    Ahmadinejad also moved to reassure about Iran's nuclear policy, which has been the subject of international concern since his shock win on Friday.

    "Today we can say that nuclear technology is our right, to be used for peaceful purposes," he said.

    He pledged that negotiations with the European Union aimed at showing that Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful would continue, but he also called on Europe to prove its cooperation.

    European leaders have urged Ahmadinejad, who takes power in August, to move quickly and prove that Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful.

    "I hope that under Mr Ahmadinejad's presidency, Iran will take early steps to address international concerns about its nuclear programme," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in remarks echoed by his counterparts in Paris and Berlin.

    Freedoms

    Ahmadinejad also sought to reassure investors in Iran's fledgling stock market, which he said would grow stronger. "It will grow bigger with more clarification so that people put their assets with trust into the bourse market."

    "Iran is on a path of progress and elevation and does not really need the United States on this path"

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
    Iranian president-elect



    And he pledged to increase foreign and domestic investment in the Islamic republic by streamlining bureaucratic procedures. 
      
    Ahmadinejad trounced Rafsanjani, a veteran of Iran's theocracy, in Friday's runoff with 61.69% of the vote.
      
    A deeply religious conservative, he paid homage at the shrine of Iran's revolutionary leader Ayat Allah Ruhollah Khomeini as one of his first acts since being elected.

    Although he will be the first non-cleric to hold the presidency in 21 years, opponents have accused him of seeking to impose hardline religious puritanism on Iran and enforce strict dress codes and segregation for women.

    Foes point to his record as mayor of Tehran, where he clamped down on the city's once thriving cultural centres.

    However, the mayor's team has denied he is an extremist, and Ahmadinejad has said he wants to take Iran to an unprecedented level of freedom.

    SOURCE: AFP


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