Russia signals it may support tougher Iran sanctions
Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country was not a threat to the United States.
Russia is prepared to discuss further sanctions against Iran if UN nuclear inspectors declare that the Islamic Republic has not fulfilled its commitments, a senior Russian delegate said on Wednesday.
"I do not rule out Russia taking part in working out new decisions by the UN Security Council concerning sanctions against Iran if there are enough grounds for that provided by the IAEA," a member of the delegation traveling with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to the United Nations said.
The reports were the first indication that Russia could support additional measures to punish Iran for its defiance of the international community, which is demanding Tehran halt uranium enrichment and reveal full information about its nuclear activities.
"We have said this to our Iranian partners," added the delegate, who declined to be identified.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the major world powers should set a December deadline for talks with Iran to bear fruit before moving ahead with new sanctions.
Speaking from New York, Sarkozy said dialogue with Iran was not going well, adding: "There will be a deadline, which in my mind is the month of December."
Speaking later at the United Nations, Sarkozy said Iran would be making a "tragic mistake" if it thought the world would not respond to its nuclear program.
Sarkozy, who has been one of the harshest critics of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also dismissed a suggestion from Tehran that Paris should accept a prisoner swap to secure the release of a French teaching assistant charged with spying.
"No. This is blackmail," Sarkozy said.
Clotilde Reiss is on bail and staying in the French embassy in Tehran pending a verdict in a mass trial where she has been accused of aiding an alleged Western plot following Iran's disputed presidential election in June.
Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that his country was not a threat to the United States as President Barack Obama has said, but "an opportunity."
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ahmadinejad said he expects open discussion of nuclear issues at a planned meeting with officials from the U.S. and five other powers.
The Iranian leader made clear, however, that Iran was not interested in discussing pressure to restrain its contentious nuclear program, which he again said was not intended to produce nuclear weapons.
The October 1 meeting with the U.S., China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain is to be the first of its kind since President Barack Obama took office.
Ahmadinejad said Iran would push for international nuclear disarmament and expanded opportunities for all countries - including his own - to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
The Iranian leader refused to give an explicit opinion of his American counterpart. "Is this a question to test my IQ?" he said in response.
He did say that Obama must make "big changes" in policy toward Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East, and that Obama would find a friend in Iran if he does so.
"I hope that Mr. Obama will move in the direction of change, Ahmadinejad said. At another point he said, "The sources of insecurity around the world need to be discussed."
The U.S. president intends to leave the General Assenbly plenum hall this week when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks. The latter, judging by his addresses to two previous UN assemblies, is expected to accuse Israel of a "continuous aggressive policy intended to destroy the Palestinian people."