Reuters: Iran insisted on Sunday it would never stop uranium enrichment despite a looming U.N. deadline intended to ensure it cannot develop atomic weapons. By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran insisted on Sunday it would never stop uranium enrichment despite a looming U.N. deadline intended to ensure it cannot develop atomic weapons.
“Iran will continue its uranium enrichment. We want to produce our own nuclear fuel,” Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA. “We will never stop it.”
The U.N. Security Council has told Iran to suspend atomic fuel work by August 31 or face possible sanctions. The West suspects Iran is secretly pursuing nuclear arms but Tehran insists its only aim is to generate electricity.
“Any measure to deprive Iran of its right will not change our mind about our aim,” Larijani said.
Uranium enrichment can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power stations or material for nuclear bombs.
The Islamic Republic says international sanctions would only propel soaring oil prices higher still, damaging the economies of the industrialized world.
“Those who threaten us with sanctions know perfectly that we have obtained a home-made atomic program under international sanctions,” Larijani said. “And it is irreversible.”
Iran on Sunday tested a long-range, radar-evading missile called Sagheb (Piercing) during wargames in the Gulf. Analysts have viewed such moves in the past as a signal that Iran could disrupt oil shipping routes if the atomic dispute escalated.
The United States has threatened swift action on sanctions after August 31, if Iran does not heed the U.N. demand. But analysts say divisions between major powers may delay any punitive measures.
Britain, Germany and France have been more cautious in public than the United States about sanctions. Russia and China, both major trade partners of Iran, have been unwilling and could veto any such move in the Security Council.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema said in a newspaper interview that Rome wanted to join nuclear talks with Tehran, currently being led by these six powers. Italy has strong trade ties with Iran.
ANNAN VISIT TO TEHRAN
Iran said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan would pay it a visit on September 2, two days after the U.N. deadline expires.
Last Tuesday Iran responded formally to a package of incentives proposed by the six world powers. It said its 21-page document contained ideas that would allow serious talks, but gave no sign that it was prepared to halt or suspend enrichment.
“It is about time for the European side to return to talks without any prejudgment … Serious talks can lead us to reach an understanding,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a news conference.
The six powers say they will hold off on any action until after an August 31 report by the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that will judge whether Iran has halted enrichment-related activity or not.
Diplomats close to the Vienna-based IAEA say the verdict is all but inevitable — Iranian nuclear activity continues — but that the West could not reasonably have expected otherwise.
“A lot of the media focus has been on Iran’s offer being unacceptable because it didn’t include the upfront agreement to suspend enrichment,” said one senior diplomat.
“But no one, from John Bolton (U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) to Cinderella’s fairy godmother, actually expected that to happen.
“What Iran did offer — a thoughtful counterproposal that did not rule out suspension as part of negotiations — was as positive as anyone could have hoped for,” he said.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Friday he would meet Larijani in coming days to discuss “new elements” raised in Iran’s response.
(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna and Phil Stewart in Rome)