CARACAS, Feb 15 (AP): Iranian parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel on Tuesday called for Venezuela to join his country in forming an alliance to counter threats from the world's nuclear powers. He accused the U.S. of attacking Iran's nuclear program in order to undermine Iran's independence.
He said his country could consider a proposal to move its nuclear enrichment activities to Russia, while playing down Tehran's resumption of small-scale uranium enrichment as simple lab research.
Asked by reporters if Iran would accept Moscow's proposal to enrich uranium on Russian soil, Haddad Adel said: "If that means we are deprived from the peaceful use of nuclear energy, we could study the Russian proposal."
The plan is designed to allay fears about Iran using enrichment to build nuclear weapons. A top Iranian nuclear negotiator said Tuesday in Tehran that Iran would resume negotiations with Moscow next week on the proposal after saying earlier it would indefinitely postpone them.
Speaking through an interpreter, Haddad Adel also denied his country had flouted international rules by resuming small-scale uranium enrichment activities at Natanz, the country's main enrichment plant.
"All we've done is reinitiate nuclear energy research at the laboratory level," said Haddad Adel. "We have not said anything new or committed any crime."
Haddad Adel, part of a visiting delegation from Iran, thanked President Hugo Chavez's government for its "favorable position" toward Iran, especially its support on the International Atomic Energy Agency board earlier this month, when Venezuela voted against referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council.
Later in a speech to Venezuela's National Assembly, Haddad Adel denounced the U.S. and other nuclear powers for possessing "thousands of nuclear warheads ... (used for) threatening other non-nuclear countries."
"Mutual help is necessary in these circumstances," he said. "Iran and the Mideast and Venezuela and Latin America can act as two convergent axes to neutralize the plans of arrogant world (powers)."
Iran has maintained its nuclear program is designed solely to generate electricity. But the United States and others say the program could be a cover for producing a nuclear bomb and have sought to restrict Iran's moves to enrich uranium.
Haddad Adel on Tuesday called U.S. opposition to Iran's nuclear program "only a pretext."
"They are worried that we want to be independent," he said, but added, "I don't think the North Americans want to attack us militarily."
Chavez's government, fiercely critical of Washington, has strengthened ties to Iran, now its closest ally in the Middle East - a relationship that U.S. officials have called a matter of concern.