AP: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday rejected demands that Tehran suspend its uranium enrichment activities, saying his government was determined to continue pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Associated Press
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday rejected demands that Tehran suspend its uranium enrichment activities, saying his government was determined to continue pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Ahmadinejad spoke after top Iranian and European negotiators ended their latest round of talks in Berlin, saying they had “come to some positive conclusions” but failed to reach an agreement.
“They asked for even just a one-day halt (of uranium enrichment). We said we won’t do it,” Ahmadinejad told thousands of people Thursday in Karaj, west of the capital, Tehran.
He said the U.S. and its European allies wanted Iran to suspend enrichment in order to force a permanent halt because they were opposed to Tehran’s progress. But he said Iran would not give in.
“Those who have filled their arsenal with nuclear weapons and conduct new tests every day want on political pretexts to deny the Iranian nation its full definite right of using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” he told the crowd.
“The Iranian nation won’t give in to one iota of coercion,” he added.
Ahmadinejad said the Europeans had initially asked for a three-month suspension of enrichment in order to conduct negotiations, which he said would mean “a huge loss” for the Iranian program.
“Who will pay for the losses?” he asked. “Then they reached a point that they asked for even just a one-day halt. We said we won’t do it.”
The statements Thursday continue a frequent pattern of past months in which Ahmadinejad publicly states a hard-line position of no compromise, often in front of large crowds, as Iran’s negotiators try to reach deals behind the scenes.
Chief Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana for two days of talks in Berlin this week, but neither would give details of what had been achieved.
Solana said they had made “some important progress on the elements relating to how the potential negotiations can take place.”
“But still, we have some issues that have been put but have not been closed,” he added.
Larijani indicated they had discussed how future negotiations could proceed. “We do hope to embark on the main negotiations as soon as possible,” he said.
The meeting between Solana and Larijani was their third over a package of incentives that six countries – the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany – are offering Tehran in return for suspending its uranium enrichment program and returning to full-scale negotiations.
The U.S. and its allies have threatened to seek sanctions in the U.N. Security Council if Tehran does not comply. Russia and China oppose any immediate move to impose punitive measures.
Iran has ignored a U.N. Security Council resolution to halt uranium enrichment by Aug. 31. Enrichment can produce either fuel for a reactor or material for a warhead.
The U.S. and its allies believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its program is peaceful and merely aimed at generating electricity.
Iran has said it will never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel, but at times it has indicated it may temporarily suspend large-scale activities to ease tensions.
Associated Press Writer Stephen Graham contributed to this report in Berlin.