TEHRAN — Iran’s president mocked a package of incentives to suspend uranium enrichment, saying yesterday they were like giving up gold for chocolate — defiance that appeared certain to complicate U.S. efforts to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Do you think you are dealing with a 4-year-old child to whom you can give some walnuts and chocolates and get gold from him?” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked.
He spoke before a huge crowd in the city of Arak, the site of a heavy-water reactor that is scheduled for completion by early 2009. Such facilities produce plutonium as a byproduct that can be used in building nuclear weapons.
Signaling the difficulties ahead, a high-level, six-nation meeting on Iran was postponed yesterday, reflecting differences between the United States and its allies on one side, and the Chinese and Russians on the other.
The London meeting of senior officials from the five permanent Security Council members and Germany was to have been held tomorrow, but was postponed until Tuesday at the earliest, diplomats told the Associated Press.
The British Foreign Office said the decision was “to allow a further detailed preparation of the … offer to Iran.”
China and Russia have opposed bringing Iran’s case to a vote in the U.N. Security Council, where the United States, Britain and France have pressed for sanctions.
Only a day earlier, European nations said they might add a light-water reactor to a package of incentives meant to persuade Tehran to give up enrichment permanently.
But Mr. Ahmadinejad heaped scorn on the offer in the nationally televised speech yesterday.
“They say they want to offer us incentives,” he said. “We tell them: Keep the incentives as a gift for yourself. We have no hope of anything good from you.”
His defiance was met with shouts of “We love you Ahmadinejad” from the crowd.
A light-water reactor is considered less likely to be misused for nuclear proliferation than a heavy-water facility, which produces plutonium waste.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi joined the president in the counterattack, mockingly offering the Europeans trade concessions if the European Union dropped its opposition to the nuclear program.
Mr. Ahmadinejad said Tehran had put its trust in the EU in 2003 and suspended its nuclear activities as a confidence-building measure as negotiations continued. The EU then demanded that Iran permanently stop uranium enrichment.
“We won’t be bitten twice,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said.
The 2003 deal called for guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program was intended only for building reactors for electricity generation and was not being used as a cover to develop weapons. Iran agreed to the request, but negotiations collapsed last August when the Europeans said the best guarantee was for Iran to permanently give up its uranium-enrichment program.
Iran responded by resuming reprocessing activities at its uranium conversion facility in Isfahan.