“Thus far, Iran has failed to do that, and so the pressure will continue,” Carney said. “And let me be very clear, as the president has been, every option available, and that includes a military option, remains on the table when it comes to keeping the president’s commitment to Iran not acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran’s program is for providing fuel for power plants and radioactive material for medical purposes, all “under the watchful eye of the IAEA,” the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency.
The IAEA, however, has criticized Iran for repeatedly refusing to answer questions about evidence that it researched a missile-borne nuclear warhead, and the U.N. agency says that it cannot verify that Iran isn’t secretly developing a nuclear weapon.
Despite the increasing bite of sanctions, Ahmadinejad said that Iran is dealing with the measures, noting that just 12 percent of its economy relates to foreign trade.
“The conditions in Iran are not as bad as portrayed by some,” he said.
He denied that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – a force that answers directly to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – is aiding Syrian President Bashar Assad’s efforts to crush the uprising by largely Sunni Muslim rebels.
“The so-called news that you refer to has been denied vehemently, officially,” he said, contradicting a statement last week by the Revolutionary Guard’s commander, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, who confirmed that members of his contingent’s Al Quds Force – a paramilitary and espionage unit – are in Syria.
Assad, whose minority Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, is overwhelmingly Shiite Iran’s main Arab ally. Assad charges that the uprising, estimated to have claimed more than 25,000 lives, is being waged by foreign terrorists armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran is working for “peace in Syria. We like and love both sides.” But, he continued, “intervention and meddling from outside” have made it harder to advance peace efforts.
Ahmadinejad seemed piqued that the U.S. State Department plans to remove an Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, from its list of terrorist organizations.
The MEK, he said, is responsible for killing 16,000 Iranian civilians, and it will be long seen as a terrorist group in Iran. But he called the U.S. decision a “gift” because it allows Iran to point out “the double standard” of U.S. dealings with the world.
Asher reported from New York, Landay from Washington; Lesley Clark of the Washington Bureau contributed.