AP: Iran will never scrap its nuclear program, and talks with Europeans are intended to protect the country’s nuclear achievements, not negotiate an end to them, an Iranian official said Wednesday. The remarks by Ali Agha Mohammadi, spokesman of Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council, are the latest in a hardening of his country’s stance amid ongoing talks with European negotiators. The Associated Press
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
TEHRAN, Iran Iran will never scrap its nuclear program, and talks with Europeans are intended to protect the country’s nuclear achievements, not negotiate an end to them, an Iranian official said Wednesday.
The remarks by Ali Agha Mohammadi, spokesman of Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council, are the latest in a hardening of his country’s stance amid ongoing talks with European negotiators. They also reflect Tehran’s possible frustration at the lack of progress.
Europe is pressing Iran for concessions on its nuclear program, which the United States claims is aimed at producing atomic weapons. In exchange for nuclear guarantees, the Europeans are offering Iran technological and financial support and talks on a trade deal.
“We have the power to negotiate because we keep our (nuclear) achievements in our hands and we are negotiating to protect them,” Mohammadi said Wednesday. “It’s definite that we will protect our scientific achievements as a basic pillar, whether talks make progress or not.”
Mohammadi’s comments came a day after Iran’s vice president, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, called on the Europeans to speed up the talks, amid reports that negotiations are deadlocked.
Aghazadeh, who also serves as head of Iran’s atomic energy organization, suggested Iran was not happy with the progress of the talks, telling reporters: “We have to take the negotiations seriously and accelerate them.”
European officials acknowledged the complexity of the negotiations, but said talks were going at a good pace and a diplomatic solution remained on track.
The talks have been carried out against a backdrop of U.S. warnings. In January, President Bush reaffirmed his support for a diplomatic settlement, but said he would not take any option off the table, including a possible military strike.
A summary of the negotiations that was leaked last week showed Europe had made little progress in convincing Iran to make permanent its temporary suspension of uranium enrichment activities, although negotiators said the atmosphere at the talks has improved recently.
Uranium enriched to low grades is used for fuel in nuclear reactors, but further enrichment makes it suitable for atomic bombs. The United States and other countries fear Iran seeks to enrich uranium not to the low level needed to generate power, as it claims, but to a weapons-grade that could become the core for a nuclear warhead.
While not prohibited from enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran suspended uranium enrichment and all related activities in November to build trust, reduce international suspicions and avoid U.N. Security Council sanctions. Tehran has said it will decide within three months whether to continue its suspension, which is monitored by U.N. nuclear inspectors.