HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Iran refuses to halt nuclear work

VIENNA (Reuters): Iran brushed off threats intended to make it freeze its nuclear programme as a U.N. deadline to do so fell due on Wednesday, but offered to guarantee it would not seek atomic weapons.

Iran, defiant as a 60-day grace period it had been given to stop enriching uranium for nuclear fuel ran out, again vowed it would not halt its nuclear activities as a precondition for talks on trade benefits offered by six world powers.

The U.N. Security Council, which in December banned transfers of technology and expertise to Tehran's nuclear programme, may consider broader sanctions if Tehran, as expected, does not freeze enrichment work by February 21.

The West suspects Tehran is conducting an atomic weapons project disguised as a bid to produce peaceful atomic energy.

"Maybe there are certain groups or countries willing to coerce Iran ... (but) Iran's nuclear dossier cannot be resolved through force and pressure," Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said on Tuesday, alluding mainly to the United States, which has built up strike forces in the Gulf near Iran.

Iran says its programme aims solely to generate electricity.

"If the other side expresses concerns about possible deviations of Iran's activities in the future, we have no objections to settling these concerns at the negotiating table," Larijani said after meeting the U.N. nuclear watchdog director.

"We would give the necessary assurances and guarantees (in negotiations) that there will be no deviation ever towards nuclear weapons (in Iran)," said Larijani, who Iranian officials said would go to Italy for talks on Wednesday.

"We are a country with no intentions to develop nuclear weapons. We want to work within the framework of the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)."

He said he had "constructive" talks with International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei on ways of reviving talks with Western powers. But he offered no sign Iran was ready to compromise on the issue of suspension.


ElBaradei, whose agency has been unable to verify that Iran's nuclear work is wholly peaceful after three years of investigations, was expected to report to the Security Council that Tehran had ignored the deadline to suspend enrichment.

But his report was now more likely to appear on Thursday, not Wednesday as expected, a diplomat close to the IAEA said.

ElBaradei has urged both sides to take a mutual "timeout" to enable talks -- Iran would suspend enrichment rather than accelerate it from research level to "industrial scale" as planned at its Natanz plant, while sanctions would be suspended.

A diplomat close to the IAEA said Iranian officials were sounding positive in private about a "timeout" and hoped EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who led earlier talks with Larijani, would be authorised to discuss it with him.

Western officials have dismissed previous such signs of Iranian flexibility as stalling while it seeks to master enrichment technology at its Natanz nuclear complex.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference in Turkey that Larijani and Solana had reached agreement that the negotiations should be resumed.

The Security Council is not expected to take action before the next meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors on March 5-9, leaving a little more time for dialogue to avert a feared U.S.-Iran conflict, said the diplomat close to the IAEA.

As a possible compromise to jumpstart negotiations, Larijani suggested earlier this month that Iran could pledge to refine uranium no higher than the 4-5 percent level, sufficient for power plant fuel but far below the 80 percent needed for bombs.

Another, Swiss-backed, proposal has been for Iran to run centrifuge enrichment machines empty while negotiations proceed, rather than feed them with uranium for enrichment.

But Western diplomats and analysts have said there is no technological means to guarantee a cap on enrichment levels, while the Swiss-backed proposal is unacceptable as it would still let Iran gain expertise running centrifuges.

ElBaradei has cited intelligence estimates that Iran remains four to eight years away from mastering the means to assemble an atom bomb, assuming it wants one.

Washington has not ruled out military action but says it is seeking a diplomatic solution, not planning a war.

Larijani, echoing other Iranian leaders, said Washington would pay dearly if it attacked Iran.

"If they are inclined to engage in a boxing match, they will have problems of their own. But if they are willing to sit down at a chess match, both sides could come to a negotiated result."
Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org