Washington (AFP) Jun 21, 2007
Iran warned Thursday it would take a "longer stride" in its hotly contested nuclear program if it is slapped with a third set of United Nations sanctions. The comment in a Newsweek interview by Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, came as Larijani prepared to discuss the row with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Portugal this weekend.
Iran has been hit with two sets of UN Security Council sanctions and faces a third for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment work, the process which makes nuclear fuel and the fissile core of an atom bomb.
"What would be the benefit? Have the past two resolutions impeded our activities?" Larijani was quoted as saying, a day ahead of another set of talks with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
"They can pass another resolution, and we would make another, longer stride. Therefore they cannot solve the Iranian nuclear program," he said, defying pressure led at the UN by the United States and EU powers.
Larijani refused to elaborate on the potential new stride, but said it would not necessarily mean accelerating the uranium-enrichment program.
"We don't see a need for a higher degree of enrichment. Because our basic theory is to (create civilian nuclear) fuel. And we don't need higher (weapons) grades of enrichment," he told the magazine.
Larijani said that his talks with Solana in Lisbon Saturday would address "meticulous expert-level work done on the ideas so far being introduced," involving increased surveillance of Iranian nuclear facilities by the IAEA.
"What is important here is that Iran's logic dictates that we do accept the supervision of the agency," he said.
Previous talks between Solana and the Iranian official have foundered on the Islamic republic's refusal to consider either a moratorium or a suspension of its uranium enrichment, and the crisis has only escalated.
Larijani welcomed recent remarks by ElBaradei that since Iran has already obtained the knowledge of how to enrich the nuclear fuel, it should be allowed to keep some enrichment capability in any deal.
The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) gives non-nuclear powers the right to enrich, the Iranian official said, "and we believe that nobody should deviate toward a bomb."
Larijani accused the United States and Britain of flouting the NPT by developing "new generations of nuclear weapons" and noted that non-signatories such as India and Pakistan had built their atomic bombs.
But he added that Iran was committed to cooperating with the IAEA and said: "We would like to work within the framework of the NPT."
earlier related report
A huge gap apparently remains between the two sides over uranium enrichment, a sensitive process that can be used both to make nuclear fuel and the explosive core of an atomic bomb.
The European Union and the United States say they will only hold full negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme if Tehran suspends enrichment immediately.
Iranian leaders however have repeated time and again that they have no intention of offering any suspension of the sensitive process and are prepared to continue defying the West.
"Nuclear energy belongs to the Iranian nation and the Iranian nation will defend this right with their fists in the air," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told cheering crowds at a public rally last week.
Ahmadinejad also dismissed the prospect of a third set of UN sanctions to punish Iran for its defiance, retorting that the two previous sets of resolutions were "not worth a nickel coin".
Both Solana and Larijani's office have confirmed that the meeting will take place on Saturday in the Portuguese capital but have given no details on the agenda.
A day before his meeting with Solana, Larijani will stop over in Vienna on Friday for talks with the head of the UN atomic watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei.
But Iran's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said there was no chance of any talks on UN Security Council resolutions which demand Iran suspend enrichment.
"Of course it will be about the nuclear issues we have vis-a-vis the IAEA," Soltanieh told AFP. "It will not be about the UN resolutions. We always said that the UN resolutions are without legal basis."
Western powers are now pushing for a third UN sanctions resolution against the Islamic republic, but it remains to be seen how quickly veto-wielding members Russia and China can be brought on board.
The United States has said it wants to have the crisis resolved through diplomacy but has never ruled out the option of military action to bring Iran to heel.
"My position hasn't changed and that is that all options are on the table," US President George W. Bush said this week.
Instead of yielding to the UN demands, Iran has in fact expanded its capacity for enriching uranium at a facility underground at its nuclear plant in the central city of Natanz.
Diplomats in Vienna have said the UN atomic agency thinks Iran could have 8,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges at the facility by December, a significant increase in capacity.
According to IAEA figures, Iran had as of May 13 more than 1,300 centrifuges at the heavily bunkered facility in Natanz.
However analysts have raised questions over whether Iran is yet able to operate the centrifuges at the high velocities and long period of time necessary to produce substantial quantities of enriched uranium.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Russia Tells US That Iran Poses No Missile Threat
Tehran (AFP) June 20, 2007
Russia on Wednesday bluntly told the United States it saw no threat from Iran's ballistic missiles and was perplexed how Washington could use this to justify a planned US defence system in Europe. "We do not see any kind of threat from Iran," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters after a meeting in Tehran of foreign ministers from Caspian Sea states.
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