Iran issues stern warning to Europeans ahead of nuclear talks
TEHRAN (AFP) May 22, 2005
Iran warned Britain, France and Germany Sunday against pushing for the Islamic republic to be referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme, saying such a step would spark "a crisis over which the Europeans would have no control".
Speaking ahead of high-level crisis talks due to be held in Brussels and Geneva this week, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also warned it would take "unilateral decisions" if it faced diplomatic punishment.
"It is not legally possible to refer our case to the UN Security Council. Many counties believe there is no legal basis for it. So if one country pressures others to do it, they will be the losers, not the Islamic republic of Iran," he told reporters.
"We have taken the necessary measures and we are not afraid of being referred to the UN Security Council," he said, asserting again that "the decision regarding Isfahan is irreversible".
Iran agreed in November with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its uranium conversion and enrichment activities, which Washington believes conceals its nuclear armament intentions.
However the Islamic republic is seeking to resume uranium conversion at a plant near the central city of Isfahan, a move that would violate its deal with the EU-3 and leave it facing the threat of UN Security Council action.
Asefi said that if the Europeans went ahead with pushing the dossier to New York, "it means that an issue that could have been solved with negotiations has become a crisis over which the Europeans have no control."
"It is then that the Islamic Republic of Iran will feel no obligation or no commitment, and it will act upon unilateral decisions," he warned, without elaborating.
Iran has agreed to hold off from resuming uranium conversion -- a precursor to the ultra-sensitive enrichment process which has prompted fears of a secret weapons program -- pending this week's talks.
Emergency talks between Iranian nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani and the three European foreign ministers -- Jack Straw of Britain, Michel Barnier of France and Joschka Fischer of Germany -- are due to take place on Wednesday, the day after an "experts" level meeting in Brussels.
"What we are expecting depends on what the Europeans are offering. We don't have anything to say, we will just be listening," Asefi said, adding that the Geneva talks will be held inside the Iranian embassy.
Iran insists its bid to master the full nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment, is merely aimed at generating electricity and is a right for any country that has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Iran has proposed commencing a phased resumption of fuel cycle work, but that has been rejected. The Europeans want Iran to dismantle the programme altogether -- in other words the same kind of deal that Britain and the United States reached with Libya.
"It is unacceptable for us that they tell us that there should not be enrichment and a fuel cycle. But if they say something that includes our rights, we are ready to work with them," Asefi said.
"It depends on what the Europeans will have to say. The Geneva session will show if we are going to reach an agreement with the Europeans or not."
Asefi also said a supposed Russian proposal to break the deadlock was no longer being considered.
Iranian officials have said Moscow had offered to take UF6 gas produced in Isfahan and carry out the enrichment process in Russia as an alternative to Iran carrying out the enrichment itself at a centrifuge plant in Natanz.
"We cannot give up Natanz," Asefi asserted.
Washington, however, has said a similar proposal had been made by Iran and not the Russians.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.