Ahmadinejad says Iran not dodging talks, downplays sanctions



    Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Iran was ready to talk to the western powers, “They have this excuse that Iran is dodging negotiations while it is not the case,” he said, “A person who has logic and has right on his side, why should [he] refrain from negotiations?” he asked rhetorically.

    After EU had imposed sanctions on Iranian Oil, Catherine Ashton EU foreign policy chief had said that the sanctions were designed to get Iran to the negotiating table.

    “The European Union [EU] stands together in sending a clear message to the government of Iran: that we wish to go back to negotiations, to invite them to pick up the issues which were left on the table in Istanbul a year ago,” she said on Tuesday.

    She had sent a letter in October asking Iran to resume talks, but Iran has not formally replied to that letter. The last round of talks broke down January 2011.

    Iran for its part has repeatedly insisted that it was ready to go back to the negotiating table, but on terms of mutual respect. “Iran is ready to negotiate on the basis of mutual respect,” Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister, said on Wednesday.

    He said he would forward the response of Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator to Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister who is acting as a go between “on the date and place of negotiations”.

    Ahmadinejad also downplayed the effect of EU sanctions on Iran. Iran exports upwards of $200 billion worth of crude. EU imports less than 10% of it, nearly $24 billion worth of crude, Ahmadinejad said. Sanctions on that amount of crude will not affect Iran significantly, he said.

    There were reports in the Iranian media that the parliament would consider banning exports to the EU. Iran claims run counter to the reports in the media, which peg its exports to the US at 20%. Last year, it exported 6 lakh barrels to EU per day, out of a daily production of nearly 40 lakh barrels. The truth therefore lies somewhere in between Iranian and EU claims.