Iran sends message to US after nuclear suspension
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 15, 2004
Iran called on its arch-enemy the United States Monday to change its attitude following an agreement by the Islamic republic to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities as part of a deal with the European Union.
"They can no longer use this as a pretext, and normally they should change their attitude to Iran. But if this has just been a pretext to put pressure on Iran, they will continue the same policy," said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi.
Faced with the threat of being referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear activities -- seen by the United States as a secret weapons drive -- Iran agreed late Sunday to suspend its controversial uranium enrichment-related activities in a deal with Britain, France and Germany.
The US administration, which has lumped Iran into an "axis of evil", has been critical of the diplomatic effort to get Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and wants the UN nuclear watchdog's board to send the dossier to the Security Council in a view to imposing sanctions.
Asefi said Iran would only hold negotiations with the United States if it was clear there was a change in Washington's policy. Tehran and Washington cut off diplomatic ties in 1980.
"In order to negotiate with the Americans, we must be certain that they have changed their attitude vis a vis Iran. We will know this in the coming days, but it will be pointless to negotiate if they repeat in any negotiations what they say publicly," Asefi told reporters.
He said Iran would "directly" spell out this position to the US during an international conference on Iraq due to be held in Egypt on November 22-23, but he said "no bilateral meeting is on the agenda".
Asefi also asserted the deal -- which stipulates a suspension of "nearly all" activities surrounding enrichment -- was not a climbdown on Iran's part.
"We stayed within our red lines, and this red line meant we could suspend enrichment but not stop it," he said.
"In the text, we insisted on the fact that the suspension is a voluntary decision and not a legal obligation. This is an important change. In the past, the Europeans insisted on Iran stopping its enrichment programme, but the question now is how Iran can continue its programme without worrying other countries."
He said the accord "recognises the right of Iran to master nuclear technology."
Iran has also gained concessions from the EU.
The carrots the EU are offering include civilian nuclear technology, including access to nuclear fuel and a light-water research reactor, increased trade and help with Tehran's regional security concerns.
Senior Iranian diplomat and negotiator Hossein Moussavian said late Sunday the suspension would remain in force while Iran and the EU negotiated a long-term cooperation accord. He said these negotiations would start on December 15.
While Iran insists it only wants to make fuel for a nuclear reactor to generate electricity, there are fears that once the fuel cycle has been mastered the Islamic republic could choose to enrich its uranium to weapons-grade levels.
Iran has consistently refused to halt its fuel cycle work, saying such activities for peaceful purposes are the right of any signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the treaty overseen by the IAEA.
In its two-year probe of Iran, the UN watchdog has uncovered some activities deemed suspicious, but has not uncovered a "smoking gun" that proves the Islamic regime is seeking weapons of mass destruction.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.