Debating world affairs, live on television, face-to-face with US President George W Bush – that is the proposal from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Speaking two days before a UN deadline on Tehran’s nuclear programme, the Iranian president claimed the US and Britain are abusing what he called the privileged positions they hold in the world order. The United Nations Security Council has given Iran until Thursday to suspend uranium enrichment. But on Saturday, Ahmadinejad inaugurated a new phase at a heavy water plant at Arak.
Heavy water reactors produce plutonium – an alternative route to a nuclear device, the other being highly-enriched uranium. Tehran has always denied it intends to produce a nuclear weapon, saying instead it wants – and needs – atomic technology to produce electricity.
In a further show of defiance Iran test-fired a long-range missile from a submarine in the Gulf on Sunday. Tehran could face UN sanctions if it fails to halt enrichment work. But it appears to be shrugging off the threat of cuts to oil sales, saying such a move would only push prices even higher. Iran says it is ready for talks on its programme but has refused to suspend enrichment ahead of negotiations. It is thought that Russia and China – both big trade partners – may oppose any move towards UN penalties.