Iran Nuclear NewsIran Tells EU to Back Down as Nuclear Talks...

Iran Tells EU to Back Down as Nuclear Talks Resume

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Reuters: Iranian officials Tuesday threatened to break off negotiations with France, Britain and Germany if the three European Union heavyweights continue to insist that Tehran abandon all sensitive atomic activities. European officials began a new round of talks with Iranian negotiators in Geneva aimed at working out a permanent resolution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, which Washington says is a front to build atomic weapons. Reuters

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN – Iranian officials Tuesday threatened to break off negotiations with France, Britain and Germany if the three European Union heavyweights continue to insist that Tehran abandon all sensitive atomic activities.

European officials began a new round of talks with Iranian negotiators in Geneva aimed at working out a permanent resolution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, which Washington says is a front to build atomic weapons.

Tehran insists it is intended solely to generate electricity and has rejected an EU demand to terminate its uranium enrichment program, which could be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.

“If the Europeans refuse our proposals in the talks during the next couple of days, their proposals will be strongly opposed by Iran as well,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi was quoted as saying by Iran’s student news agency, ISNA.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, European diplomats close to the talks told Reuters no breakthroughs were expected.

In a further sign of defiance, Iran’s parliament Tuesday added a clause to next year’s budget bill obliging the government to conduct feasibility studies for the construction of nuclear power plants that would generate 20 gigawatts (GW) of electricity.

The government has so far announced plans for producing only 7 GW of power from nuclear reactors by 2020. Iran’s first 1 GW reactor is due to come onstream in late 2006.

The official IRNA news agency said lawmakers also obliged the government “to take necessary measures to produce and supply part of the fuel” for the reactors.

COMPROMISE OR BUST

The EU says Iran must provide “objective guarantees” that it is not pursuing atomic weapons — which they say can be nothing short of a termination of enrichment. Iran says increased inspections and limits on enrichment levels would suffice.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Iran had an obligation to reassure the world its statements about not seeking nuclear weapons were true.

“So the posturing by Iran is not going to get them anywhere. Refusal by Iran to do this, that and the other is not going to get them anywhere,” he told reporters.

Sirus Naseri, a senior member of Iran’s negotiating team, told Iran’s state television from Geneva that without a compromise there would be no point in further negotiations.

“If ambiguities over the guarantees remain in place, continuation of the talks will be meaningless,” he said.

This view was seconded by others in Tehran.

“If the Europeans demand and insist on cessation, it will mean the end of the negotiations,” Ali Aghamohammadi, head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council’s Propaganda Office, told state radio Monday.

“In that case, surely we will resume our uranium enrichment activities. Also we will accelerate our activities to master the nuclear fuel cycle,” he said.

On behalf of the 25-nation EU, the trio have offered Iran economic and political benefits if Tehran gives up enrichment.

In a significant shift in strategy toward Iran, President Bush is leaning toward backing the EU offer of incentives, U.S. officials say.

However, he is demanding assurances from Europe that if Iran fails to cooperate, the EU will back a referral to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

Iran has frozen most of its enrichment program as a voluntary confidence-building measure but has told the EU three the freeze would be short-lived. The Europeans want the suspension made permanent.

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