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. Iran warns EU over nuclear pressure
TEHRAN (AFP) Aug 17, 2005
Senior Iranian officials warned the European Union Wednesday to stop pressuring the Islamic republic to limit its nuclear activities and setting conditions for future negotiations.

"After re-starting the activities at Isfahan, we stress that we should have the continuation of negotiations without any pre-conditions," said Manouchehr Mottaki, nominated as Iran's new foreign minister under hardline President Mahmood Ahmadinejad.

Iran is at loggerheads with the international community after resuming uranium ore conversion, the precursor to the ultra-sensitive process of uranium enrichment, at a facility near Isfahan.

The step ended a nine-month freeze agreed during talks with Britain, France and Germany -- who have been trying to convince Iran to abandon atomic energy technology that could also provide it with the capability to build a bomb.

But Mottaki told the student news agency ISNA that "Iran's transparent, logical and legal handling (should) convince the European side to join negotiations."

A similar warning was made by the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Mohammad Saidi.

"The rougher and faster these countries make the game, the more decisive we become to operate the rest of our nuclear facilities," he told ISNA.

Accused by the United States of seeking nuclear weapons, Tehran insists it has the right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But Iran has so far maintained its suspension of uranium enrichment at its Natanz facility.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has called on Iran to halt all nuclear fuel cycle work and the UN watchdog is to report September 3 on Tehran's compliance with international safeguards.

Iran has refused to backtrack, despite the risk of being referred to the UN Security Council.

"Legally the IAEA is not in a position to talk about a violation," Saidi said, calling on the Europeans to deal with Iran's nuclear issue "logically and not to jeopardise and agitate the region."

"Despite the possibility of another resolution in the September session of the (IAEA) board of governors to call on Iran for re-suspension of the Isfahan installations, we will definitely not accept such a call," he said.

Russia meanwhile cautioned the United States against considering the use of force to contain Iran's nuclear programme, saying this would be "dangerous" and unleash "serious consequences."

"We consider that it would be counter-productive and dangerous to use force, the serious consequences of which would be barely predictable," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement clearly aimed at US President George W. Bush's recent assertion that force is an option.

The statement urged that the crisis over Iran's insistence on producing its own nuclear fuel be resolved "exclusively through expert consultations and diplomatic negotiations."

The Russian position echoes a call by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder over the weekend for military force to be ruled out as an option in Iran, saying it was "extremely dangerous."

On Friday, Bush refused to rule out military action, saying: "All options are on the table."

Russia is building a nuclear power station in Iran and is to supply the plant's nuclear fuel, but says it does want Iran to develop any military capability.

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