Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Iran says it won't give up nuclear technology

President Mohammad Khatami vowed Wednesday that no Iranian government would ever abandon the progress that the country has made in developing peaceful nuclear technology.

The comment did not augur well for negotiations with the big three European powers who are currently trying to persuade Iran to cease permanently the enrichment of uranium.

Khatami warned that if the talks with Britain, France and Germany fail, his government will not be bound by its undertaking to suspend enrichment.

"If other parties [to the negotiations] are not committed to their promises, we will not be committed to our promises at all," Khatami told a meeting of foreign diplomats in Tehran. The Europeans have promised Iran economic and technological aid in return for cooperation on the nuclear issue.

Khatami then went further and warned of a course of action that would reach far: "If we feel you [Europeans] do not fulfill your promises, we will adopt a new policy, and the responsibility of its huge consequences will lie with those who broke their promises," he said. He did not say more about this policy. ...

"Neither my government, nor any other [Iranian] government can give a convincing reply to people [who seek our] giving up peaceful nuclear technology," said Khatami, whose second and final presidential term ends later this year.

"Iran has achieved nuclear technology without the help of others, and it will never give up its right [to use it] under illegitimate pressure from others," Khatami said. ...

Khatami reiterated that Iran would never make nuclear weapons. He said the country was a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and had reaffirmed its commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear power in November.

The United States says it supports the European negotiations with Iran, but U.S. officials say privately they expect them to fail. The United States has long wanted the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions on the country.

In Belgium on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran must live up to its international obligations to halt its nuclear program or "the next steps are in the offing." (Full story)

In Washington, U.S. President Bush said Wednesday, "The Iranians just need to know that the free world is working together to send a very clear message. You know, 'Don't develop a nuclear weapon.'

"And the reason we're sending that message is because Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a very destabilizing force in the world."...