Pressuring Iran on nukes fans Mideast fire further: Khatami

The Associated Press

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Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami delivers a speech Friday at U.N. University in Tokyo. AP PHOTO
Khatami, speaking at a gathering sponsored by U.N. University in Tokyo, defended Iran's "legitimate right" to develop nuclear energy, claiming the program is completely peaceful and poses no threat.But he warned that pressure aimed at forcing Iran to abandon the program is "creating another crisis in a region that is already ready to explode."The U.N. Security Council has set a deadline of Aug. 31 for Iran to freeze its enrichment efforts, but the United States and others say Iran's response this week to a package of incentives to halt its secretive nuclear program was unsatisfactory.Khatami said Western policies in the Middle East are promoting violence, although they are supposed to be aimed at fighting terrorism."Our nuclear program is a peaceful one completely," Khatami claimed. "We are not trying to create an international crisis, though some countries are trying to do that."Khatami is a noted Islamic scholar whose moderate policies in religion and politics, especially his view of the U.S., were opposed by hardliners in Iran. He was leader from 1997 until 2005, when ultraconservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president.But while moderate by Iranian standards, Khatami is outspoken. On Friday, he particularly singled out U.S. Mideast policy for criticism, saying it is fomenting tensions. "Many of the policies the big powers are promoting are promoting violence, although in the name – fighting terrorism,” he said. “This is like pouring gasoline on a fire.”

He also called the U.S. nonproliferation and nuclear arms policy hypocritical.

“We are seeking peaceful usage, we have no need for nuclear weapons,” he said. “If nuclear weapons are so bad, why do they have hundreds of nuclear warheads?”