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. Iran's Rafsanjani urges calm in nuclear stand-off
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 30, 2005
Failed Iranian presidential contender Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Friday appealed to the Islamic republic's hardline authorities to exercise restraint in a stand-off with the West over the country's nuclear programme.

In a sermon to worshippers at Tehran University, the moderate conservative said the dispute surrounding allegations Iran is seeking nuclear weapons was "very serious" and called on the regime to show "patience and wisdom".

"It is about diplomacy rather than slogans," Rafsanjani said in comments apparently directed at Iran's nuclear negotiators.

"It is about being reasonable, negotiating and being diplomatically active. All methods of leverage should be used, but reasonably with patience and wisdom, without provocation and slogans that give pretexts to the enemies."

His comments were the first time any senior official has signalled reservations over how the regime -- now under the total control of right-wingers -- is handling the nuclear issue.

Rafsanjani attempted a comeback as president in June on a moderate platform that included a call to improve ties with the West. He had also said it was time for Iran and United States to repair ties, a view not shared by the election winner -- hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Since Ahmadinejad's victory, Iran has hardened its position by rejecting proposals that it abandon fuel cycle technology in return for incentives and resuming uranium conversion work in defiance of a suspension agreement with Britain, France and Germany.

Iran insists its programme is peaceful. But the United States and European Union want Iran to abandon all work related to uranium enrichment, arguing Iran cannot be trusted with such sensitive technology, but also offering incentives in return.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week adopted a resolution that finds Iran in "non-compliance" with nuclear proliferation safeguards -- an automatic trigger for taking the matter to the Security Council.

"Determined and explicit, they say Iran must not have the fuel cycle, but we must also be determined and explicit and say that we should have it," Rafsanjani said.

"They claim that they are not sure if Iran will pursue militarism in nuclear technology. We should practically prove that Iran is not seeking this. This is a matter of negotiations and diplomacy," he said.

But the US and Europeans, he said, also needed to "act reasonably and wisely".

"You will not get anything from frightening resolutions. We should sit, talk and reach confidence," said Rafsanjani, who remains the head of Iran's Expediency Council -- a top political arbitration body.

Iran has already threatened to respond to the resolution by ending compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty's additional protocol -- which gives the IAEA more inspection powers -- and resuming enrichment.

The resolution said Iran could avoid penalties by halting conversion, fully cooperating with IAEA inspectors and returning to the EU talks.

Iran has so far refused to do so, but senior officials have signalled a retaliation to the resolution may not come until November when the IAEA's 35-nation board decides on its next step.

"The agency's meeting in November is very important. We must wait until November," Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, a vice president and head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told state television late Thursday.

"As soon as they send the case to the Security Council, then we will suspend application of the additional protocol and resume enrichment," he added.

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