Iran nuclear chief vows to press on with fuel work
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Iran nuclear chief vows to press on with fuel work

AFP | August 16, 2005

Iran's new nuclear policy chief, the hardliner Ali Larijani, said Tehran will press on with ultra-sensitive fuel cyle work while continuing talks with the European Union, in comments published Tuesday.

Larijani signaled in his first interview since being named Monday as Supreme National Security Council head that Iran would not roll back its August 8 resumption of uranium conversion, despite the move triggering a new crisis with the international community.

"Iran does not accept the resolution" which the International Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEA) passed last week urging Tehran to suspend all such activities, he told the Shargh newspaper.

The Europeans "must understand that the Iranian government is determined to preserve the nuclear fuel production cycle", said Larijani, who took over from pragmatist Hassan Rowhani.

"We insist on Natanz," the site of Iran's uranium enrichment factory, "but this must go through the channel of negotiations," he said.

He acknowledged it was "theoretically possible" that the Islamic republic could be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions over its controversial nuclear activities.

Iran is at loggerheads with the international community over its nuclear programme after resuming the uranium conversion activities, ending a nine-month freeze agreed on during talks with the Europeans led by Rowhani.

Accused by the United States of seeking nuclear weapons, Tehran insists it has the right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Before his appointment, Larijiani is on the record as a staunch critic of the troubled talks with the EU on providing reassurances that Iran's nuclear programme is exclusively civilian in return for a package of incentives.

But his first comments as secretary of Iran's top policy-making body, the Supreme National Security Council, he appeared to signal no immediate break with policies under former reformist president Mohammad Khatami.

Negotiations are "the right method", Larijani insisted.

"The Americans and the Europeans are unlikely to obtain anything by handling the Iranian issue from a security point of view and adopting a radical attitude."

In defiance of the West, Iran last week removed the IAEA seals at its facility in Isfahan, even though US President George W. Bush has refused to rule out the use of force against Tehran.

While uranium enrichment as such remains suspended at Natanz, Iran has repeatedly said it would restart such activities under a negotiated agreement with the Europeans.

"Through negotiations, we can reach a solution in which both sides would be winners," said Larijani. But he criticised the Europeans saying their "attitude is not justifiable".

"Despite all the flexibility shown by the friends of Mr Rowhani, the Europeans have behaved badly," Larijani said.

"So we can not rule out the possibility (of Iran being referred to the Security Council), but we must try to settle this problem through friendly means."

Despite Larijani's reputation for intransigence in dealings with the West, Iran has said its foreign policy will not change under the new government of President Mahmood Ahmadinejad, who succeeded Khatami after a June election.

Any decision on the nuclear file depends on a restricted circle around the country's supreme guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


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