Istanbul: Iran`s nuclear fuel swap deal with Turkey and Brazil was an opportunity that would not be repeated, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday, with a U.N. vote looming to impose tougher sanctions on Tehran.
His warning came a day before the U.N. Security Council, according to Western diplomats, could vote to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
"We hope and still hope they will be able to use this opportunity, but we say this opportunity will not be repeated," he told a news conference in Istanbul, where he was attending a regional summit.
Turkey and Brazil last month resurrected parts of a U.N.-backed offer for Tehran to part with 1,200 kg of low enriched uranium -- which is potential nuclear weapons material -- in return for special fuel rods for a medical research reactor.
The United States and other powers have regarded the deal as too little, too late, and they submitted extended sanctions to the Security Council last month for approval.
Turkey and Brazil, both in the 15-member Security Council, say their deal with Iran obviates the need for sanctions, as it created a diplomatic opening to tackle larger issues surrounding Tehran`s nuclear program.
Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon are not expected to vote for the resolution, but none of them has a veto. Western diplomats are expecting 12 countries, including all five veto-holding permanent council members, to vote for the measure, ensuring it will pass.
Iran is continuing with its enrichment program, raising fears in the West that Tehran is covertly making nuclear weapons.
Ahmadinejad said the United States should change its hardline stance.
"We expected President (Barack) Obama to start a new policy of the United States. I`m not saying I`m totally disappointed but if he fails to make a change, the first ones to lose would be President Obama and the people of the United States," Ahmadinejad.
"We ... are ready to talk on every subject on the basis of mutual respect," he said.
He also warned Russia, whose Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was also attending the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) forum summit in Istanbul, against siding with Iran`s foes.
The Iranian leader had strongly criticized Russia for backing the draft sanctions.
"There is no big problem, but they must be careful not to be beside the enemies of the Iranian people," Ahmadinejad said. Western powers had wanted tougher measures -- some targeting Iran`s energy sector -- but China and Russia worked hard to dilute the proposed steps.
The draft resolution calls for measures against new Iranian banks abroad if a connection to Iran`s nuclear or missile programs is suspected, as well as vigilance over transactions with any Iranian bank, including the central bank. It would also expand the U.N. arms embargo against Tehran.
Ahmadinejad also reiterated support for Turkey in the wake of an Israeli commando operation to stop an aid convoy reaching Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that killed nine Turks.
"If they think that by using machines guns you can stop an aid convoy, hundreds of aid convoys will soon sail through the waters to be harbingers of peace," Ahmadinejad said.