Iran Nuclear NewsIran says it won't suspend atomic work

Iran says it won’t suspend atomic work

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Reuters: Iran will not suspend uranium enrichment, as demanded by the West, but is still holding talks about its nuclear program, the Iranian government spokesman said on Monday. By Hossein Jasseb

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran will not suspend uranium enrichment, as demanded by the West, but is still holding talks about its nuclear program, the Iranian government spokesman said on Monday.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said as she flew to the Middle East that foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany might meet this week to discuss Iran. But she said there was no sign Iran would halt its atomic work.

The Security Council has threatened to impose sanctions unless Iran suspends enrichment, a process the West says could lead to Iran making nuclear bombs. Iran says its nuclear activities are aimed purely at civilian electricity generation.

“Regarding the nuclear issue, (President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad has expressed Iran’s view. Talks still continue. Ahmadinejad has said that we will not accept suspension, and we haven’t accepted it,” Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told a news conference.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana has been holding talks with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani to try to coax Iran into suspending enrichment. No deal has been reached but further talks are planned.

The foreign ministers held a conference call over the weekend to discuss Solana’s efforts.

“I think it’s fair to say that we have not yet heard anything that suggests that the Iranians are going to suspend,” Rice told reporters, noting that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been quoted as rejecting any suspension.

“I believe that Javier Solana will probably check his sources one more time to see if there is anything more there,” said Rice, speaking to reporters on a stopover in Ireland as she flew to the Middle East.

“We did have a discussion of the importance of remaining firm on (U.N. Security Council) Resolution 1696, which means that if the Iranians don’t suspend, then we will go to the Security Council for sanctions,” she said.

Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter which is brimming with petrodollars, has shrugged off the threat of sanctions. Ahmadinejad has said Iran will not be deflected from its right to nuclear technology, despite Western pressure.

The president, although often Iran’s most public voice, is not the most powerful figure under the Islamic Republic’s system of clerical rule. The final say in state matters, including the nuclear file, lies with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“THIS WEEK OR NEVER”

In Brussels, an EU official said Solana hoped to speak to Larijani on Monday, bringing forward a planned mid-week contact with Tehran in an effort to press for a decision this week.

European diplomats say that while Iran has moved on secondary issues related to the conduct of possible negotiations with the major powers, it has still given no commitment on the central issue of suspending enrichment.

“It’s this week or never,” one European diplomat said.

Although Iran has failed to meet the Security Council’s demand that it suspend nuclear activities by August 31, it is not certain the major powers will now move to impose sanctions. Russia and China, which hold vetoes on the Council, both have misgivings about the use of sanctions.

Rice spoke as she set off on a trip to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

She said it was possible the six powers trying to rein in Iran’s nuclear program — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — might meet later this week to discuss it but no decision had been taken.

Such a meeting could provide a venue to discuss possible sanctions on Iran. U.S. officials have said these are likely, in the first instance, to focus on preventing Iran from acquiring “dual-use” items that have civilian or military uses.

(Additional reporting by Paul Taylor in Brussels and Arshad Mohammed in Shannon, Ireland)

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