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. Iran rejects nuclear fuel compromise
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 12, 2005
Iran insisted Saturday it would carry out all nuclear fuel work at home, rejecting a proposal to outsource sensitive production abroad that aimed to avert an escalation of tensions on Tehran's atomic programme.

Igor Ivanov, head of Russia's Security Council, was in Tehran with what was thought to be a offer under which Russia might conduct sensitive nuclear fuel work on Iran's behalf.

"Iranian nuclear fuel will be produced in Iran itself," Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation head Gholamreza Aghazadeh said after a meeting with Ivanov.

"What is important is that the enrichment (of uranium) takes place in Iran," he said.

The remarks -- the most unequivocal rejection yet of moves for Iran undertake its sensitive uranium enrichment work abroad -- were echoed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Iran is not favourable towards being sent to the UN Security Council but it will not accept pressure from the hegemonic powers," Ahmadinejad said during his talks with Ivanov, accordig to the ISNA agency.

Ivanov's visit came ahead of a November 24 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board, which will consider referring Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Earlier, Iran's top nuclear negotiator had indicated that Tehran was cool on any proposal that would see parts of the nuclear fuel cycle taken out of its hands.

"What matters to us is to preserve nuclear technology in Iranian hands," nuclear chief Ali Larijani was quoted by the student news agency ISNA as saying.

"Nuclear technology is the Iranians' right; it is a right that no one can deny."

It was still not clear exactly what offers Ivanov had presented to the Iranians and the Russian official insisted that he had come with no specific proposal.

"The Russian government will have a certain number of discussions with Iranian officials in order to reach a better solution," he said on his arrival on Friday.

"I hope we will reach a common point of view," he added, saying he had not brought a "specific" proposal with him.

Instead, Ivanov said he came to encourage Tehran to resume talks on its nuclear programme with the so-called EU-3 -- Britain, France and Germany. "Russia is ready to provide help," he said.

Under a proposal reportedly being floated, Iran would be allowed to carry out an initial step in making nuclear fuel -- converting uranium ore into the uranium hexafluoride gas that is the feedstock for making enriched uranium.

But enrichment itself would be done in Russia under an offer said to be under consideration by the European Union and the United States.

Russia, which is veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, has a lucrative contract to build Iran's first nuclear power reactor and has in the past thwarted US attempts to take Tehran to the Security Council.

"Out relationship with Russia rests on more solid foundations than with other countries," said Larijani.

Moscow staunchly backs Iran's right to a civilian nuclear energy programme. The United States has alleged that the effort is a cover to develop weapons, something Tehran roundly denies.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied on Thursday that Washington and Brussels had agreed on any proposal.

"There is no US-European proposal to the Iranians. I want to say that categorically. There isn't and there won't be. We are not parties to these negotiations and we don't intend to become parties to the negotiations."

The New York Times said Washington had agreed with the EU-3, which are negotiating with Iran on behalf of the European Union, to make a last-ditch offer that would allow Tehran to maintain very small-scale nuclear activities.

Iran triggered the latest standoff in August when it effectively broke off negotiations on a package of incentives for restraining its nuclear plans and resumed conversion activities it had suspended a year ago.

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.

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