Iran leader softens his tone on Iraq

Updated: 2007-02-13 08:33

Despite drawing world attention, his hard-line tactics have not boosted his popularity at home. Ahmadinejad suffered an embarrassing blow in December's municipal elections, which were widely seen as a referendum on his support. At the same time, newspaper editorials urging him to cool down and focus on issues closer to home began popping up.

In what may have been one of his biggest steps backward, Ahmadinejad this week refrained from making a widely anticipated announcement Sunday about Iran's contentious nuclear program that was sure to have provoked the US and its allies who allege Tehran is secretly developing atomic weapons.

Ahmadinejad had hinted he was going to announce on the 28th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that saw hard-line clerics take power in Iran that his country had begun installing 3,000 centrifuges at its nuclear plant at Natanz.

But during the ceremonies Sunday, Ahmadinejad never mentioned the centrifuges. And although he vowed not to give up enrichment, he said his country was prepared to talk.

The change in tone comes as the UN Security Council threatens to slap steeper sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspend enrichment, a potential pathway to developing nuclear arms. The Security Council first agreed two months ago to impose limited sanctions on Iran.

The United States and Iran have regarded each other with distrust and suspicion since the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran by militant students. Recent suggestions for the two countries to talk have been dismissed on both sides.

The White House recently authorized US troops in Iraq to kill or capture Iranian agents deemed to be a threat. Earlier this month, gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms seized an Iranian diplomat as he drove through central Baghdad. That incident came nearly a month after the US detained five Iranians in northern Iraq. In December, two diplomats were released to Iranian officials after being detained for more than a week.

When asked Monday about the detentions, Ahmadinejad said arresting people without charging them is not the solution.

"I think this was childish of the US government to do something like arresting defenseless people, not allowing them to talk to anyone," he told ABC. "This is not a solution to the problem. The solution is somewhere else."


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