Iran's Rafsanjani says nuclear talks will proceed, but at slower pace
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 23, 2003
Influential former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said Tuesday that talks with the UN nuclear watchdog over Tehran's atomic program would continue, but more slowly because of a loss of confidence.

"Quite naturally, we do not accept (the logic of) force," Rafsanjani was quoted in the daily Hamshahri as saying, in reference to an October 31 deadline imposed on Tehran to prove it is not secretly developing nuclear weapons.

"The negotiations will continue ... more slowly because there has been a loss of confidence in the board of governors of the IAEA" (International Atomic Energy Agency), said Rafsanjani, referring to the agency's governing body.

On September 12, the IAEA board imposed the deadline on Iran, also urging it to suspend enriching uranium, which the United States claims could be used to make nuclear bombs.

The resolution demands Tehran answer all the agency's questions regarding its enrichment activities, provide unrestricted access to UN inspectors and a detailed list of its nuclear-related imports.

Commenting on the resolution, Rafsanjani said the "board of governors insulted Iran and commited an offense; it must redress the insult."

Iranian atomic energy agency chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh on September 15 told an IAEA conference in Vienna that Iran remained fully committed to cooperating with the agency and honoring the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), despite its objections to being handed a deadline.

But Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, said in a newspaper report in Tehran Monday that Iran had so far "cooperated beyond the (current nuclear anti-proliferation) accords and allowed the taking of (environmental) samples and inspections of non-nuclear sites."

Salehi said that in the future Iran would go no further than its commitments under the NPT, "while completing what has been embarked upon."

He said Iran would, however, continue talks with the IAEA on signing an additional protocol to allow IAEA inspectors to make surprise visits to suspect sites.

But Rafsanjani said he had told IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei that once Iran decided to sign the protocol, it would take at least four years for that to happen.