Iran is “ready to discuss” its nuclear program with a group of countries that includes the U.S., Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.
“I think we will have a plan to discuss things,” Ahmadinejad said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program.
Ahmadinejad is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York this week at a time of heightened pressure on Iran to cooperate with international inspections and cease uranium enrichment activities that western powers believe are intended to produce nuclear weapons.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran should return to the “P5 Plus One,” a negotiating forum comprised of the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany, to discuss its nuclear program.
UN-backed sanctions are “biting” Iran’s economy, especially its financial sector, and the talks offer the country a “way out of increasing opprobrium from the international community,” Clinton said on the same ABC program.
“The Iranian regime is quite worried about the impact on their banking system, on their economic growth because they’ve already encountered some tough economic times,” Clinton said.
Current United Nations sanctions “may not change the views of the Iranians” on pursuing “nuclear power capability,” former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
It would be better to allow Iran to build nuclear power plants while promising “a set of sanctions that would be devastating to them” if the reactors were used as part of a weapons program, Powell said.
Clinton urged Iran to release two Americans who have been detained for more than a year on suspicion of espionage. The two Americans, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, were captured last year with Sarah Shourd when they crossed into Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan. The Obama administration has said the three Americans are hikers who mistakenly wandered into Iran, not U.S. spies. Shourd was released and allowed to leave Iran Sept. 14.
Ahmadinejad said that Shourd’s release was “a huge humanitarian gesture” and that the two Americans still in custody “violated” Iranian law.
“The cases have to be examined,” Ahmadinejad said. “They violated the law.”
Ahmadinejad said eight Iranians have been “illegally arrested” in the U.S. and should be set free as a “humanitarian gesture.”
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