- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

TEHRAN — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday his country’s disputed nuclear program was like a train without brakes or a reverse gear, prompting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to respond that Iran needs “a stop button.”

The comments came as senior officials of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, the U.S., France, China and Russia — and Germany prepared for an emergency summit in London today to discuss increased international pressure on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency last week reported that Iran had ignored a U.N. Security Council ultimatum to freeze its uranium-enrichment program and instead had expanded the program by setting up hundreds of centrifuges. Iran has repeatedly refused to halt enrichment as a precondition to negotiations about its program.

“The train of the Iranian nation is without brakes and a rear gear,” state radio quoted Mr. Ahmadinejad as telling a gathering of Islamic clerics. “We dismantled the rear gear and brakes of the train and threw them away some time ago.”

He also repeated his call for further negotiations, saying the time for “bullying” had expired.

Miss Rice responded by saying “they don’t need a reverse gear. They need a stop button.” She also told “Fox News Sunday” that Tehran needs “to stop enriching and reprocessing, and then we can sit down and talk about whatever is on Iran’s mind.”

“I’ve said that I am prepared to meet my counterpart or an Iranian representative at any time if Iran will suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities. That should be a clear signal,” she added.

Enriched to a low level, uranium is used to produce nuclear fuel, but further enrichment makes it suitable for use in building an atomic bomb. The U.S. and its allies fear Iran is using its nuclear program to produce atomic weapons — charges Iran denies, saying its aim is to generate electricity.

In December, the U.N. Security Council imposed limited sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspend enrichment and gave it a 60-day grace period to halt enrichment. The deadline expired Wednesday.

In London, a senior British diplomat said officials would use today’s talks to examine options for further sanctions — including on arms exports and lucrative export credits Iran receives from Europe in support of trade.

“The question of government support for business with Iran is bound to be examined more closely now,” said the diplomat, who estimated European agencies provide $20 billion worth of export credits to support trade with Iran. He spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

He acknowledged that negotiations on new sanctions would likely be delicate, with the U.S., Britain, Germany and France thought to favor tougher measures than Russia and China will accept.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, seven Muslim nations warned of a “dangerous escalation of tension” over Iran’s nuclear program and urged the standoff be resolved diplomatically without resorting to force.

The statement of concern came after ministers from Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan met to seek ways to resolve conflicts in the Middle East and Iran.

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