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. Iran will never dismantle nuclear program: chief negotiator
BEIJING (AFP) Nov 24, 2004
Iran will never dismantle its nuclear program but is ready to give assurances that its uranium enrichment activities will not be diverted to develop weapons, the top Iranian negotiator told AFP Wednesday.

"Iran will never be prepared to completely dismantle its nuclear program," Seyev Hossein Mousavian, the chief Iranian negotiator with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in an interview.

"Iran is prepared to give all assurances that uranium enrichment activities will never be diverted. That's why we should have the right for peaceful nuclear technology and that this right should be exercised with no discrimination. That's why dismantlement is out of the question."

Mousavian was speaking at the end of a two-day visit to China to drum up support after the United States accused Iran of using a civilian atomic energy program to secretly develop nuclear weapons.

The United States has been pressing for the IAEA to refer the matter to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

While Iran vehemently denies the US charges, it agreed a week ago with the so-called "EU Three" to suspend as of Monday all its uranium enrichment-related activities, including making uranium gas and building centrifuges, in order to avoid the UN sanctions threat.

Mousavian told reporters Wednesday that the agreement with the three EU countries -- Britain, France and Germany -- was a voluntary move and was not legally binding, Iranian embassy officials said.

"Iran's commitment to suspend its uranium enrichment program still stands. Iran is fully committed to honoring the agreement with the EU," an embassy official quoted Mousavian as saying.

"It's a voluntary postponing. It's not a legal obligation."

Speaking to AFP before leaving Beijing, Mousavian insisted Iran had the right to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear technology and again denied US charges.

He said Iran had opened all its nuclear sites and even its military sites to international inspectors and had done all it could to cooperate.

The Americans should not raise additional demands or it could "weaken international conventions," Mousavian said.

"Iran has shown transparency for confidence-building during the past year. The maximum cooperation has been done," he said.

He accused Washington of practising a double standard in the Middle East by turning a blind eye to Israel's nuclear weapons program.

"We expect the Americans to leave their dual policy in the Middle East and their oppression against Iran," Mousavian said.

The IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, has a team of inspectors in Iran to verify that Tehran makes good on the agreement to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is to present a report to the IAEA governing board when it meets in Vienna on Thursday and has said his team should be able to verify suspension by then.

Mousavian left Beijing Wednesday for Vienna, confident that the issue would not be taken up by the UN Security Council due to the EU agreement and China's backing.

China, a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, reiterated its opposition to such a move during a meeting between Chinese vice foreign minister Zhang Yesui and Mousavian, the embassy official said.

"China is against referring this issue to the Security Council," the diplomat quoted Zhang as saying.

Beijing however has refused to say publicly whether it would veto, support or abstain on any UN resolution about Iran's nuclear program.

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