Sunday, November 27, 2005

From combined dispatches

TEHRAN — Iran’s hard-line president said yesterday the Bush administration should be tried on war-crimes charges, and he denounced the West for pressuring Iran to curb its controversial nuclear program.

“You, who have used nuclear weapons against innocent people, who have used uranium ordnance in Iraq, should be tried as war criminals in courts,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.

Mr. Ahmadinejad did not elaborate, but he apparently was referring to the U.S. military’s use of artillery shells packed with depleted uranium, which is far less radioactive than natural uranium and is left over from the process of enriching uranium for use as nuclear fuel.

Since the Iraq war started in 2003, American forces have fired at least 120 tons of shells packed with depleted uranium, an extremely dense material used by the U.S. and British militaries to penetrate tank armor. Once fired, the shells melt, vaporize and turn to dust.

“Who in the world are you to accuse Iran of suspicious nuclear-armed activity?” Mr. Ahmadinejad said during a nationally televised ceremony marking the 36th anniversary of the establishment of Iran’s volunteer Basij paramilitary force.

Iran has been under intense international pressure to curb its nuclear program, which the United States claims is part of an effort to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies such claims and says its program is aimed at generating electricity.

Iran insists that it has the right to fully develop the program, including enrichment of nuclear fuel — a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or atomic bombs.

State-run TV said more than 9 million Basij members formed human chains in different parts of the country to mark their militia’s anniversary. Thousands linked hands to make a 12-mile chain along an expressway in northern Tehran.

It is estimated that the Basij comprise 15 percent of Iran’s population, or about 10 million people.

Meanwhile, a leading German newsweekly reported that Iran has offered North Korea oil and natural gas as payment for help in developing nuclear missiles.

A senior Iranian official traveled to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, during the second week of October to make the offer, the Der Spiegel magazine reported yesterday, citing unidentified Western intelligence sources.

It was not clear what North Korea’s response was, the magazine said.

Diplomats and intelligence sources say Iran is pushing ahead with plans to enrich uranium in defiance of international pressure to stop developing sensitive nuclear technology to calm fears it is seeking nuclear weapons.

Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles are based on North Korea’s No-Dong rockets and Pyongyang is Tehran’s most important partner in developing missile technology, Der Spiegel said.

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