Iran's defiance fails to evoke strong international response

Mahmoud AhmadinejadIran's defiance of the international community, by pushing ahead with its 'civilian' nuclear programme, did not evoke strong reactions on Thursday, a day after president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared on state television indicating a dramatic improvement in technology.

US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland dismissed the announcements as 'hype.' ''We frankly don't see a lot new here,'' she told reporters. ''This is not big news.  It seems to have been hyped. The Iranians have, for many months, been putting out calendars of accomplishments, and based on their own calendars, they are many, many months behind.  This strikes us as calibrated mostly for a domestic audience.''

However, she reiterated that the US wanted Iran to demonstrate to the rest of the world that its nuclear programme was for purely peaceful purposes and that it should take advantage of the inspection team of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak, who is in Tokyo, also dubbed Ahmadinejad's claims as 'exaggerated.' ''The Iranians are continuing to progress but what they presented yesterday was a show. There are many things which have been presented in an exaggerated manner, partly to dissuade the world from going after them,'' he declared.

According to the Israeli defence minister, Iranians were ''boasting of successes they have not achieved and they still have much to do to reach the second or third generation of centrifuges.'' They wanted to ''create the impression that they have passed the 'point of no return', which is not true,'' added Barak.

But Japanese premier Yoshihiko Noda warned Barak that a military strike on Iran could prove extremely dangerous and cautioned Israel from taking any such action. The visiting defence minister called for tightening sanctions against the Islamic regime in Teheran. Japan has been a major consumer of Iranian oil, though India and China have now emerged as the biggest two buyers of crude from Iran.

Oil prices fell below $101 a barrel on Thursday after Iran's aggressive stance did not evoke much response internationally. While Iran was considering cutting off crude supplies to six European nations, if the EU tightened sanctions, a foreign ministry spokesman in Teheran said that exports to the continent had not been stopped.

The EU also confirmed having received a formal reply to a letter sent to Iran nearly four months ago, offering to resume talks on the nuclear issue. The Iranians said they were ready for a dialogue with the P5+1 group, comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China), plus Germany.