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Iran Says Enrichment Research Non-Negotiable

Iranian former President Mohammad Khatami (center) accompanies journalists on the tour of the Natanz facility. AFP file photo.

Tehran (AFP) Nov 27, 2005
Iran said Sunday it reserved the right to restart ultra-sensitive uranium enrichment work for "research and development" purposes, insisting the sensitive nuclear activity was not up for negotiation.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also said forthcoming talks would need to provide "concrete guarantees" that Iran can conduct fuel cycle work on its own soil -- a position at odds with a Russian compromise plan.

"The question of research and development is different from the production of nuclear fuel. What can be negotiated is the question of nuclear fuel production," Asefi said, without saying if and when Iran could resume such work.

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday put off taking Iran to the Security Council to give time for new Russian diplomacy to resolve fears Iran is using an atomic energy drive as a cover for nuclear weapons development.

Under the compromise plan, Russia would conduct uranium enrichment -- a process which can make both nuclear fuel and the explosive core of a weapon -- on Iran's behalf.

But Tehran has already rejected the proposal, refusing to give up what it says is its right to enrichment for peaceful purposes enshrined by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"The subject of the discussions must be concrete guarantees for the carrying out of the fuel cycle inside Iran. There should not be special rules for Iran,"

Asefi said, adding that Iran had yet to be officially presented with the Russian plan.

The comments on enrichment research came after diplomats at the IAEA in Vienna said they had seen a four-page intelligence document claiming Iran had discussed options for possibly resuming enrichment at Iran's Natanz facility, where there is already a cascade of 164 centrifuges.

But Asefi said the report was "baseless", nonetheless repeating that the suspension of enrichment work at Natanz was "voluntary".

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