Iran will not back down on its nuclear program despite economic problems caused by Western sanctions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday.
“We are not people to retreat on the nuclear issue,” he told a news conference in Tehran.
“If somebody thinks they can pressure Iran, they are certainly wrong and they must correct their behavior,” he said.
Ahmadinejad’s comments came amid an accelerated slide in Iran’s currency that he said was the result of an economic “war” waged by the West on the Islamic republic.
His vow that Iran would maintain its nuclear activities despite the pressure contradicted the U.S. government’s belief that the Western sanctions were working on Tehran.
“These are the most punishing sanctions we have ever been able to amass as an international community and they are very important for trying to get Iran’s attention on the important denuclearization work,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington on Monday.
In his media conference, Ahmadinejad also rowed back hints he laid during a visit to New York last week to attend a U.N. General Assembly that Iran could consider direct negotiations with the United States on the nuclear issue.
“Direct negotiation is possible, but needs conditions, and I do not think the conditions are there for talks. Dialogue should be based on fairness and mutual respect,” he said.
But he also said: “I think that this situation cannot last in the relations between Iran and the United States.”
Ahmadinejad on his return was criticized by hardliners in Iran for opening the door to the possibility of negotiations with America. That has fuelled criticism that his government is mismanaging the economy.
The president said the sanctions hitting Iran’s oil exports generating foreign currency revenues and restricting its ability to repatriate those revenues “is a hidden and heavy war on a planetary scale.”
“It’s a battle. They have managed to diminish a little our oil sales, but we are going to compensate for that,” he said.
The slide of the rial, which is 80 percent weaker against the dollar than it was a year ago, was part of “a psychological war on the exchange market,” he said, adding that Iran had sufficient foreign currency reserves.
Ahmadinejad reaffirmed that he was “not very concerned” about persistent threats from Israel of military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“Iran is not a country to be shaken by, let’s say, a few firecrackers,” he said.
“We have never been an aggressor. But we are very good defenders who have made all attackers regret their actions,” he said.
“They are pressuring us and they are portraying us as the ones who are adventurous,” he said.