AP: The head of Iran’s nuclear program said Monday his country would not halt its uranium enrichment program, but he added that Tehran would welcome other nations in its ongoing talks with European negotiators. Associated Press
MOSCOW – The head of Iran’s nuclear program said Monday his country would not halt its uranium enrichment program, but he added that Tehran would welcome other nations in its ongoing talks with European negotiators.
Gholamreza Aghazadeh also said the new Iranian government wants to increase its cooperation with Russia, which is building a reactor in Iran that has triggered U.S. concerns about Tehran’s nuclear intentions. Washington accuses Iran of using its civilian program as a cover to secretly produce atomic bombs. Iran rejects those charges.
Britain, Germany and France, negotiating on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, say they may help draft a resolution demanding that Iran be referred to the Security Council if it does not stop uranium conversion by the Sept. 19 board meeting of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency.
Last month, Iran restarted uranium conversion, an early stage of the nuclear fuel cycle that precedes enrichment. Highly enriched uranium can be used to make weapons, but at lower levels it is used to generate electricity.
Aghazadeh said Iran will announce some new proposals in the run-up to the IAEA meeting but added it would never agree to drop its uranium enrichment program.
“This matter has already become a national issue that concerns the whole of Iranian society and I can assure you that no Iranian government will make a compromise on this issue,” Aghazadeh said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Britain, France and Germany previously offered Iran economic incentives and a supply of reactor fuel in return for Tehran permanently giving up uranium conversion.
Iran rejected that proposal as an infringement on its sovereignty, saying the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty gives it the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Aghazadeh said Monday that several nations responded positively to Iran’s proposal to join the EU talks, but he did not identify them. He added that “there were no technical or judicial reasons for handing Iran’s nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council.”
On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran plans to seek bids for building two more nuclear power plants.
Russia has objected to the U.S. push to refer Iran to the Security Council for possible sanctions, saying the IAEA could continue dealing with the issue.
The Russian Foreign Ministry reaffirmed Monday that the latest report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei “creates a good basis for the continuation of the professional and apolitical work by the IAEA so that all remaining issues relating to Iran’s nuclear program are resolved.”
Although U.S. officials are concerned by Russia’s $800 million contract to build the Bushehr reactor, they praised Moscow for a February deal obliging Iran to return spent nuclear fuel to ensure it is not used for weapons.
Russian and Iranian officials reaffirmed Monday that the Bushehr plant would be started by the end of 2006.
“The relations with Russia are of key importance to our state,” Aghazadeh said at the start of his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Russia already has trained about 700 Iranian nuclear engineers, and several dozen Iranian experts are yet to complete training at the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant in southwestern Russia, said Alexander Ivanchenko, who heads the training center at the plant, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
While Russia has defended its nuclear cooperation with Iran, it has also urged Tehran to stop uranium conversion and cooperate with the international community to assuage concerns about its nuclear program.