Tehran (AFP) Nov 07, 2005
Iran on Monday insisted on its right to peaceful nuclear technology but said negotiations were the best way to solve disputes over its atomic programme.
"We insist on Iran's undeniable right in the (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and international law, which is our right to peaceful nuclear technology," said Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
"We consider negotiation to be the basis of relations over the nuclear issue," he said, speaking a day after Tehran formally asked the European Union to reopen stalled talks on the issue.
"In accordance with our beliefs, we are not seeking atomic weapons," he added.
Talks between Iran and the so-called EU-3 broke off in August when Iran resumed uranium conversion in defiance of international calls to maintain a full suspension of enrichment-related activities.
"We did not break the negotiations: Iran is committed to its agreements unless the other side defies them," Mottaki said, speaking at the opening of a conference on central Asia and Caucasus.
Iran on Sunday formally asked Britain, France and Germany to reopen the stalled talks, with top nuclear official Ali Larijani "insisting on the necessity of negotiations."
But officials said Iran would convert a fresh batch of uranium ore in a flagrant rejection of EU calls for a renewed freeze on such activities that prompted an EU diplomat to reject the Iranian request out-of-hand.
Iran refuses to go back on conversion and says it is only ready to negotiate as long as its right to enrichment is recognized.
A meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog in late November could theoretically send Iran to the Security Council amid mounting concerns about the direction of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, one of three EU ministers who have led efforts to engage Iran by offering benefits in return for pledges on its nuclear plans, said that trade and diplomatic sanctions were not yet an issue.
"That has not been discussed so far, I'm not going to speculate on the future," he told reporters in Brussels where he was hosting a one-day meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Iran maintains that it is only developing nuclear energy but its insistance on converting uranium, a precursor to enrichment, has raised fears it is trying to make an atomic bomb.
Speaking a day after it sent the EU new proposals aimed at avoiding being referred to the UN Security Council, Straw underlined the need for Tehran to respond "positively" to a resolution by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.
"We've looked at the letter very carefully," he said.
"The Iranians are under the obligation to respond positively to the resolution of the board of governors at the International Atomic Energy Agency in late September and we look to them to do that," he said.
Talks between Iran and the 25-member European bloc broke off in August when the Islamic Republic, under new hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, resumed uranium conversion in defiance of international calls to maintain a suspension.
On Sunday, Iran formally asked Britain, France and Germany -- the so-called EU-3 which have led the diplomatic drive -- to reopen the stalled talks, with top nuclear official Ali Larijani "insisting on the necessity of negotiations."
Straw confirmed Monday that "informal discussions" are continuing with the Iranians, despite the deadlock on the formal nuclear talks.
The Iranian offer comes three weeks ahead of a November 24 meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog which could theoretically send Iran to the Security Council.
It also comes amid mounting concerns about the direction of Ahmadinejad's government, only exacerbated by his recent call for the destruction of Israel, which was condemned by the ministers "in the strongest terms".
The EU-3 has attempted to persuade Iran to permanently suspend uranium enrichment as a watertight guarantee that its nuclear programme is peaceful.
But Iran insists its rights are enshrined in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its additional protocol, of which it is a signatory.
Previous attempts to take Iran before the UN Security Council have foundered over Russian opposition and Moscow is once again expected to play a key role.
In their conclusions, the ministers pledged to "keep the EU's approach to Iran under close review in light of progress on the nuclear file and other issues of concern," like human rights and alleged support for terrorism.
As the EU ministers met, around 2,500 anti-Tehran demonstrators rallied to voice their opposition to Europe's efforts to engage with the Islamic state.
"Expel the mullahs from the UN" and "Mollahs 'R' terrorists," read banners brandished at the protest, which was kept away from the meeting place by a police blockade.
A mock execution and stoning took place alongside a stage, where EU parliamentarians and Iranian opposition figures addressed the crowd, brought together by the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
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US To Remove 200 Tonnes Of Highly Enriched Uranium From US Weapons Stockpile
Washington (AFP) Nov 07, 2005
US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Monday that up to 200 tonnes of highly enriched uranium would be removed from the US weapons stockpile to prepare the material for use in the navy, space programs and civilian sectors.
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