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Iran must halt atomic work to avoid sanctions: U.S.

Reuters | October 3, 2006
By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN - The United States said on Tuesday the international community would have to impose sanctions if Iran did not halt sensitive atomic work, and the EU said the latest talks on the matter had been helpful but no breakthrough.

A senior Iranian atomic official said suspending uranium enrichment, which the West says Iran wants to use to build atomic bombs, would not solve the nuclear standoff.

The deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saeedi, instead suggested France could invest in Iran's atomic industry, enabling it to supervise Tehran's work.

Similar proposals for foreign investment in the past found no takers. The West has opposed plans that would keep enrichment on Iranian soil and allow Tehran to master the technology.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has been trying to coax Iran into halting enrichment but warned talks cannot go on for ever, said a telephone conversation on Monday with top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was constructive but brought no breakthrough.

"It was ... cordial and constructive. We still have some elements that need to be agreed. We will continue talking," Solana said, adding that the proposal for French monitoring was interesting but needed more analysis.

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said there were no direct talks between Paris and Tehran. He restated the West's position that Iran must halt enrichment.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Saudi Arabia there was no evidence Iran would halt enrichment.

"Should it not, then the only choice for the international community is to live up to the terms of resolution 1696 ... and that means to bring sanctions," she said.

A senior British official, who declined to be named, said world powers were preparing to draft U.N. sanctions against Iran as talks had failed so far to yield a deal. He said Solana had reported back that Larijani gave a clear "No" to suspension.

"We are intensifying preparatory efforts for what should be in a resolution," the British official said.

Iran failed to suspend enrichment by an August 31 deadline set by the U.N. Security Council, but U.S. calls for swift moves toward sanctions have met resistance from some European states, keen for more talks, and opposition from Russia and China.

Iran's stalling has been a cause of increasing frustration in Washington. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that the United States should not consider acting alone.

"Even with all its might, the world power America also knows: without partners even America is not capable of successfully countering new threats of our time," she said.

Iran has shrugged off the sanctions threat, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeated in recent days that Iran will not be deflected from its right to nuclear technology.

"BEST SOLUTION"

The president is not the most powerful figure in Iran's system of clerical rule, which gives the final word to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to whom Larijani answers.

"The best solution to remove concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions is not to demand Iran suspend uranium enrichment activities," Saeedi told Reuters.

"We have an idea which can be the best solution, technically and legally. France can create a consortium, like Eurodif and Areva, to produce enriched uranium in Iran," Saeedi said.

"Through such participation, they can also closely monitor our activities." French state-owned Areva owns Eurodif, Europe's largest uranium enrichment plant.

Iran insists its plans are aimed at making fuel for nuclear power plants, though its first nuclear power plant, being built by Russians, is still under construction.

Washington said President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in telephone talks on Monday on the need for unity in pressuring Iran. Igor Ivanov, secretary of Putin's Security Council, held talks in Tehran on Tuesday.

The United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany have offered Iran economic and political incentives to halt enrichment. In its reply, Iran hinted at some flexibility over suspension but not as a precondition for talks.

 

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