Iran says nuclear talks must have no preconditions
TEHRAN: Iran said on Sunday it would continue to process uranium at its Isfahan plant, defying EU demands to stop or face referral to the UN Security Council over a suspected programme to make nuclear bombs.
Iran resumed uranium processing last month, leading to the virtual collapse of talks with the EU, which had hoped to convince Tehran to abandon all sensitive nuclear activities in return for political and economic incentives.
“The resumption of the Isfahan plant’s suspension is not part of our agenda and is out of the question for us,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference.
“There are some efforts to restart Iran-EU talks. We want those talks to restart without any preconditions,” he said.
Iran denies US accusations it is seeking nuclear bombs and says as a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it is entitled to run a peaceful nuclear programme to generate electricity.
Britain, France and Germany, negotiating on behalf of the EU, say the only way Iran can prove it is not seeking nuclear bombs is to give up sensitive nuclear work altogether.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) governing board meets on September 19 to discuss Iran and the European powers and Washington want Tehran to sent to the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions.
Mottaki said such referral, which he said had no legal basis, would have consequences for the international community.
“Taking a politically-motivated decision and referring Iran’s case to the Council will be a lose-lose situation,” he said. “... if it happens, it will affect our decisions as well.”
Iran is lobbying hard with other countries to block any referral to the UN Security Council. But even if its case reaches the Security Council, it may be hard to win agreement on imposing sanctions, with its permanent members likely to be divided between the United States, Britain and France in favour and Russia and China opposed.
The Council could also demand Iran resume negotiations with the EU and suspend uranium processing.
This week in New York, on the sidelines of a U.N. summit of world leaders, Iran’s new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to suggest ways of resolving the nuclear stand-off. Tehran has declined to say what he might propose.
Asked whether Iran was in favour of direct talks with its long-time adversary, the United States, over its disputed nuclear case, Mottaki said: “... We haven’t received any request from the Americans so far”.
“President Ahmadinejad’s initiative is being prepared, and it will be released in a few days during the meetings of heads of states at the United Nations in New York,” he added. reuters/afp