Reuters: The European Union warned on Wednesday Iran was close to triggering sanctions by refusing to halt uranium enrichment, but Tehran again insisted it would not give up its right to make nuclear fuel. By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) – The European Union warned on Wednesday Iran was close to triggering sanctions by refusing to halt uranium enrichment, but Tehran again insisted it would not give up its right to make nuclear fuel.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Tehran had made no commitment to suspend a process the West fears it is using as a step towards building atomic bombs, despite four months of intensive talks.
“This dialogue I am maintaining cannot last forever, and it is up to the Iranians now to decide whether this time has come to an end. And if that is the case we will have to follow the second track (a U.N. sanctions resolution),” Solana said.
An EU diplomat said foreign ministers of the major powers were likely to meet in London on Friday or Saturday to assess the outcome of Solana’s talks and decide on seeking gradual sanctions.
As Solana was speaking to the European parliament’s foreign policy committee, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a rally Iran wanted talks to go on.
“We want talks to continue but if anyone thinks talks can be used to pressure us they are wrong,” he said in a speech broadcast on state television.
“They are wrong if they think that the Iranian nation, in its path to obtain nuclear technology, will be stopped, even for a second because of their rejection, nagging and frowning.”
The president is not the most powerful figure in the Islamic Republic’s leadership hierarchy, which gives the final say to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani answers to the supreme leader.
The EU diplomat said no further contact was planned with Larijani before ministers of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany meet Solana, although it was not ruled out and lower-level contacts were continuing.
Russia, a major trade partner of Iran and so far strongly opposed to sanctions, had not confirmed whether it would attend the meeting, the diplomat added.
Western nations accuse Iran of trying to string out talks to avoid meeting demands to halt enrichment, a process that can make fuel for nuclear power plants or material for atomic bombs.
Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, insists it only wants to master nuclear technology to make electricity.
The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Tuesday the international community would have no choice but to impose sanctions if Iran refused to stop enrichment. A British official said world powers were starting to draft a U.N. resolution.
Iran, which is enjoying an oil revenue windfall, has shrugged off the sanctions threat.
In June, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany offered Iran economic and political incentives to halt enrichment. In its reply in August, Iran hinted at some flexibility over suspension but not as a precondition for talks.
“The situation at this time, as we are talking, is still that the negotiations would not be able to start because of the lack of wish of them (the Iranians) to start the suspension before the negotiations start,” Solana said.
Washington has been pushing for moves towards sanctions since Iran missed an Aug. 31 deadline set by the U.N. Security Council to halt enrichment.
(Additional reporting by Paul Taylor in Brussels)