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Defiant Iran Scents World Split On Nuclear Issue

Iranian newly appointed foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini during a press conference in Tehran. Photo courtesy of Behrouz Mehri and AFP.

Iran unruffled by US-led Gulf naval manoeuvres
Tehran (AFP) Oct 29 - Iran on Sunday said it was unconcerned about naval manoeuvres to be led by the United States off its coast this week, saying it had the situation under control and was watching the vessels closely. "US warships move regularly in the Persian Gulf and in the Sea of Oman, and we have them under surveillance," said the navy's commander Sajad Kouchaki, quoted by the Iranian press.

"The presence of two US warships shows the aggressive and dominating character of the Americans," he added. "If they want to threaten the Islamic republic of Iran we are capable of keeping them under control. The Iranian navy does not believe in such a threat and has the enemy completely under control," he said.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters that "Iran does not believe that these manoeuvres constitute a threat". From Monday the US will lead international naval manoeuvres in the Gulf off Iran's west coast aimed at fighting weapons proliferation, according to US State Department officials.

Warships from Australia, Bahrain, Britain, France, Italy and the US will take part in the operation to simulate inspection of ships carrying illicit weapons-related materials, the first time such an exercise has been carried out in the Gulf. Hosseini also urged Iran's Arab neighbours to "reinforce their security cooperation instead of having foreign countries seeking to reinforce their presence".

"We have asked many times Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members to cooperate as part of the 6+2 group (GCC states along with Iran and Iraq) to arrive at a common security accord," he added. The manoeuvres come amid mounting tension over Iran's contested nuclear programme as Tehran refuses to give up uranium enrichment despite moves by the US and European powers to impose sanctions on the country. However, a US official insisted that the joint manoeuvres were planned months ago and were not timed to coincide with the new pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.

by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Oct 29, 2006
Iran Sunday remained defiant over its nuclear programme despite the threat of sanctions, saying it was detecting splits between world powers on whether to punish Tehran for intensifying atomic work. With world powers locked in talks in New York over a draft resolution that would impose sanctions over Iran's failure to halt uranium enrichment, Tehran has defiantly expanded work on the process at a key nuclear plant.

But Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini did not appear concerned that sanctions were imminent, saying there was a split between the stances of China and Russia on one hand and Europe and the US on the other.

"Splits between the parties are very visible, that is to say between the United States and the Europeans on one side and Russia and China on the other," foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.

"These two countries have completely different positions to the Europeans. Russia does not want sanctions and does not want to close the path of negotiations, and the Chinese have a similar position," he added.

The United Nations Security Council's five veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US -- as well as Germany have been discussing a draft resolution on sanctions put forward by European countries.

But in a sign of the difficulty in reaching an agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the proposed sanctions, arguing that they did not advance objectives agreed on by the six world powers.

The Chinese stance has yet to become clear, although Beijing -- like Moscow -- is an economic ally of Iran and traditionally reluctant to use sanctions as diplomatic leverage.

Hosseini meanwhile played down Iran's move to start enriching uranium from a second cascade of 164 centrifuges at its nuclear plant at Natanz in the centre of the country, a decision greeted with suspicion by the West.

"The second cascade is part of the research activities of the country which are in line with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," he said.

"There is nothing new. It is the continuation of legal activities under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and there is no deviation," Hosseini added.

Iran vehemently rejects US allegations that its nuclear programme is aimed at making nuclear weapons, saying the drive is solely aimed at providing energy for civilians.

Enriched uranium lies at the centre of the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, as it can be used both to make nuclear fuel and, in highly refined form, the core of a nuclear bomb.

Iran would need thousands more such centrifuges to enrich uranium on an industrial scale and its current uranium enrichment work is on a research level only.

Officials have said that uranium was successfully enriched from the second cascade of centrifuges to a level of 3-5 percent and has now been put into storage.

To make a nuclear bomb, the uranium needs to be enriched to around 90 percent, far above the level needed for nuclear fuel.

The text drafted by Britain, France and Germany in consultations with Washington calls on UN member states to slap ballistic missile-related and nuclear sanctions on Iran.

It provides for a freeze of assets related to Iran's nuclear and missile programmes and travel bans on scientists involved.

Iran lauds Russia, China for 'opening nuclear splits'
Tehran (AFP) Oct 29 - Iran on Sunday applauded China and Russia for their stance on its nuclear programme, saying they had created a gaping split with Europe and the US over the imposition of UN sanctions against Tehran.

"Splits between the parties are very visible, that is to say between the United States and the Europeans on one side and Russia and China on the other," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.

"These two countries have completely different positions to the Europeans. Russia does not want sanctions and does not want to close the path of negotiations, and the Chinese have a similar position," he added.

The United Nations Security Council's five veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US -- as well as Germany have been discussing a draft resolution on sanctions put forward by European countries.

But in a sign of the difficulty in reaching an agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the proposed sanctions, arguing that they did not advance objectives agreed on by the six world powers.

The Chinese stance has yet to become clear, although Beijing -- like Moscow -- is an economic ally of Iran and traditionally reluctant to use sanctions as diplomatic leverage.

Hosseini meanwhile played down Iran's decision to start enriching uranium from a second cascade of 164 centrifuges at its nuclear plant at Natanz in the centre of the country, a move greeted with suspicion by the West.

"The second cascade is part of the research activities of the country which are in line with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," he said.

"There is nothing new. It is the continuation of legal activities under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and there is no deviation," Hosseini added.

Iran vehemently rejects US allegations that its nuclear programme is aimed at making nuclear weapons, saying the drive is solely aimed at providing energy for civilians.

Major powers set for hard bargaining on Iran sanctions
Six major powers were set next week to resume what is expected to be tough and drawn-out bargaining on proposed sanctions against Iran which pressed ahead with uranium enrichment work in defiance of UN resolutions.

Envoys from the UN Security Council's five veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US -- and Germany held a first private meeting Thursday on a draft resolution urging nuclear and missile-related sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work.

US Ambassador John Bolton said the six would resume deliberations, probably Monday, for "a chance to talk about specifics."

The text drafted by Britain, France and Germany in consultations with Washington calls on UN member states to slap nuclear and ballistic missile-related sanctions on Iran. It provides for a freeze of assets related to Iran's nuclear and missile programs and travel bans on scientists involved in those programs.

According to some diplomats, the US had pressed for a tougher draft resolution, including a call for an end to Moscow's help building Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station.

But the draft put forward by the European trio specifically exempts Russian aid to Bushehr from the proposed sanctions.

While one Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was optimistic that the major powers would eventually be able to find common ground, others said agreement on an acceptable text was likely to take weeks.

China and Russia, which have significant economic interests in Iran, are reluctant to slap tough measures on Tehran.

In a sign that tough negotiations lie ahead, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the proposed sanctions, arguing that they do not advance objectives agreed earlier by the six powers.

In Tehran, Iran confirmed Saturday it had successfully enriched uranium from a new cascade at a nuclear plant, hailing the move as a step towards industrial-scale enrichment.

Enrichment, carried out in lines of centrifuges called cascades, is used to make fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. In highly refined form, however, the product can also serve as the raw material for atomic weapons.

The Iranian announcement triggered strong reactions from the United States and France.

US President George W. Bush said Friday that the world community needed to work harder to stop Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and French President Jacques Chirac said the time may have come for sanctions.

Bush said the idea of a nuclear-armed Iran was "unacceptable" while Chirac, on an official visit to China, said Friday that Iran should face sanctions if a solution cannot be found through dialogue.

However Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said he was unfazed by reports that Iran has taken a new step in uranium enrichment, saying it was still a long way from building a military capability.

"I do not share these fears. Iran has started a second cascade of centrifuges under total control of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) for scientific purposes," he told journalists.

"It is premature to speak of weapons-grade uranium," he said, underlining the need for Iran's nuclear work to take place under IAEA supervision.

Western countries suspect that Iran's enrichment program is designed to supply material for a nuclear weapon, while Tehran insists its fuel processing is for peaceful purposes.

Meanwhile the State department said Friday that Australia, Bahrain, Britain, France, Italy and the United States would Monday take part in naval maneuvers in the Gulf off Iran's west coast to simulate inspection of ships carrying illicit weapons-related materials.

However, a US official insisted that the joint maneuvers were planned months ago and not timed with the new pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Japan Lawmaker Continues Calls For Nuclear Debate
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 28, 2006
The policy chief of the Japanese ruling party renewed his calls for a debate over whether Japan should acquire nuclear weapons capability, in the face of nuclear threat from North Korea. "The main goal is to stop North Korea's outrageous acts," Shoichi Nakagawa, policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, told a press conference in Washington, where he was visiting.







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