Monday, November 12, 2007

Iran president threatens to expose nuclear 'traitors'

irannuk — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday threatened to expose "traitors" who were pressuring his government over its atomic ambitions in the face of mounting calls on Iran to stop controversial nuclear work.

"If the internal elements do not stop pressures over the nuclear issue they will be exposed to the Iranian people," the state news agency IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying at a Tehran university.

"These are traitors and, in accordance with the vows we have taken to the nation, we will not back down and be onlookers," he told students at the Elm-o-Sanat (Science and Industry) university.

Moderates inside Iran have attacked Ahmadinejad for his handling of Iran's nuclear programme, with former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami warning against the "serious threats" facing the country.

According to the Fars news agency, Ahmadinejad said his government was under pressure from people who cited "the possibility of an attack and war" on Iran to stop its nuclear programme which the West suspects is cover for a weapons drive.

Without naming any individuals, Ahmadinejad said these people "met with foreigners every week and told the enemies why they were backing down and postponing (UN) resolutions."

Iran is under two sets of UN Security Council sanctions for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the process which makes nuclear fuel and, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

Tehran denies Western suspicions, insisting that its nuclear programme is aimed solely at generating electricity for a growing population once fossil fuels run out.

Ahmadinejad has defiantly vowed to press on with the nuclear activities and ignore UN resolutions, despite the possibility of further punitive measures.

Washington, which accuses Tehran of seeking atomic weapons, has never ruled out military action against Iran over its nuclear programme, although the White House insists it wants to resolve the crisis through diplomacy.

In recent weeks, a number of Iranian politicians, both reformist and conservative, have warned of the reality of the threats against Iran despite efforts by Ahmadinejad to brush off the idea of a US attack.

Ahmadinejad also accused his critics of intervening of behalf of a suspected spy.

"Right now they have pressured the judge in a case to acquit a spy. The Iranian nation will not allow a minority to save the offenders from people's vengeance by using their political and economic influence," he said.

Ahmadinejad's attack appeared to be aimed at former nuclear negotiator Hossein Moussavian who was briefly detained in May on national security-related accusations.

Moussavian, who is a close ally of Rafsanjani, was accused of leaking information to a foreign embassy. He was released on bail but the case is not closed.

"We are tolerating them due to some sensitivities but, when the nuclear question ends, we will express all issues in a student circle," Ahmadinejad said, speaking at the university where he used to study and teach before becoming president.

Moussavian is now the deputy head of a research institute led by Hassan Rowhani, who was Iran's top nuclear negotiator under Ahmadinejad's reformist predecessor Khatami.

The research institute operates under the auspices of the Expediency Council, Iran's top political arbitration body headed by Rafsanjani, who was roundly defeated by Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election.(afp)

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