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. Iran determined to press on with nuclear fuel drive despite bomb fears
TEHRAN (AFP) Mar 01, 2005
Iran's foreign minister said Tuesday his country was determined to resume uranium enrichment activities so it can fuel an ambitious atomic energy programme, despite international pressure for it to abandon the sensitive work.

Kamal Kharazi was also quoted by the student news agency ISNA as saying he believed the Americans were "intelligent enough" not to attack his country, accused by Washington of using the drive as a cover for weapons development.

He said the main focus of Iran's negotiations with the European Union was "the recognition of Iran's legitimate right to master nuclear technology, notably the production of fuel ... for 20 stations of 1,000 megawatts".

Britain, France and Germany have been trying to persuade Tehran to permanently abandon its capacity to produce enriched uranium -- which can be directed to both civil and military uses -- in return for a package of incentives.

The diplomatic effort is aimed at securing "objective guarantees" that Iran will not produce nuclear weapons.

"We have mastered the technology, so the Europeans know that they cannot employ the language of force," said Kharazi, who was speaking on the sidelines of a conference entitled Persian Gulf Security and Cooperation.

He said that unlike the Europeans, he wanted to see "a formula whereby Iran can continue to enrich, and in cooperation with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), give the guarantees that it is not heading towards a nuclear weapon.

"Different propositions have been made, and we hope to reach a result".

Speaking in Kuwait City, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Europe wants to prevent Iran from being able to produce nuclear weapons but that it was not opposed to Tehran developing nuclear technology.

"The approach of Europe right now is that we have to make sure Iran does not have the ability to produce nuclear weapons," Schroeder said.

"We are not against Iran developing nuclear technology, (but) we don't want to allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons," said Schroeder, who is on a tour of the Gulf region.

The diplomatic effort is aimed at securing "objective guarantees" that Iran will not produce nuclear weapons.

"The chances of agreement" are good, said Schroeder, adding that the "United States supports the European approach."

Following talks in Paris last October, Iran pledged to suspend its fuel cycle work while the negotiations are in progress, but has also consistently warned that the freeze on enrichment is only temporary.

The United States is convinced Iran is after the bomb, while many European diplomats see the fuel cycle drive as Iran seeking a "strategic option" to build an atomic bomb.

But Kharazi said: "I think that the American leaders are intelligent enough, that they have learned the lesson from Iraq and that they will not attack another country, especially Iran which is not like Iraq."

Officials in Washington have said the United States is now studying ways of boosting its support for European efforts.

Russia, which is helping Iran build its first nuclear power station at Bushehr in the south of the country, has also joined calls for Iran to abandon its enrichment programme.

After a visit to Iran on Saturday and Sunday, the head of the Russian atomic energy agency Alexander Rumyantsev said he had explained to Iranian officials that pursuing an enrichment programme of its own did not make any financial sense and was potentially economically "ruinous."

"But we are advising them not to do it and are demonstrating to them that it is economically disadvantageous," said Rumyantsev, the official who signed a landmark agreement in Iran on Sunday under which the Islamic state agreed to return spent nuclear fuel from a civilian power station.

"There are proven scientific documents which use mathematical calculations to show that for a country with fewer than eight or 10 nuclear reactor blocs, each capable of generating 1,000 megawatts, development of its own nuclear cycle is not just useless but ruinous," Rumyantsev said.

Before Kharazi's comments, Iran had said it is aiming to generate 7,000 megawatts of power through civilian nuclear reactors by the 2020, substantially lower than the threshold cited by Rumyantsev for making the uranium enrichment process affordable.

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