Monday, May 09, 2005

Iranian Hard-Liners Say Nuclear Talks With Europe Futile

Dow Jones Newswires:
Iranian hard-liners Sunday called for an end to nuclear negotiations with European powers and opposed any deal imposing limitations on Iran's nuclear program.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran will remain committed to talks with Europeans despite a lack of progress.

Asefi, however, said Iran has decided to resume certain nuclear activities that it voluntarily suspended in November, but actual uranium enrichment -injecting uranium gas into centrifuges - will remain suspended for now, despite hard-line calls for its resumption. READ MORE

Enriched uranium can be used to produce warheads, but it also can be used to make electricity, which Iranian officials insist is the sole purpose of their nuclear program. Washington accuses Tehran of trying to build nuclear weapons.

"Iran has taken the necessary steps to build confidence and show transparency," state-run radio quoted Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the National Security and Foreign Policy committee of the Iranian parliament as saying.

"The time has come to end the voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment," he said.

France, Britain and Germany, acting on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, are offering Iran economic incentives in return for guarantees that Tehran will not use its nuclear program to make weapons. Last month's Iranian-European talks yielded no results.

State-run radio quoted Boroujerdi, a former deputy foreign minister, as saying continuing talks with the "three European powers will have no outcome other than being a waste of time."

"France, Britain and Germany have shown that they don't have the necessary capacity and powers to reach an understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran ," he added.

Asefi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Iran won't restart actual uranium enrichment, but it has decided to resume some nuclear enrichment-related activities at its uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, central Iran .

"Isfahan facility carries out various activities. What activity we are going to resume or at which stage is under study," he told reporters at a press conference. "It will be either producing UF-4 or UF-6. It will be one of them."

UF-4 and UF-6 are the processed form of uranium, the feedstock for enrichment. Uranium enriched to low levels can be used as nuclear reactor fuel to generate electricity. Further enrichment makes it suitable for a nuclear bomb.

Iran agreed to suspend actual enrichment at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in 2003 to avoid U.N. Security Council referral for possible sanctions.

To bolster international confidence, Tehran in late 2004 suspended other uranium enrichment-related activities including reprocessing activities at its uranium conversion facility in Isfahan and building centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Natanz and Isfahan house the heart of Iran 's nuclear program. The Isfahan conversion facility reprocesses uranium ore concentrate into gas, which is taken to Natanz and fed into centrifuges for enrichment.

Sunday's hard-line Jomuri-e-Eslami newspaper said details of a deal between Iran and the Europeans allegedly under study was tantamount to "selling Iran 's independence."

The daily claimed the deal will let Iran operate 3,000 centrifuges in Natanz in return for strict supervision of the facility and approval of the additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allowing intrusive inspections of Iran 's facilities by experts from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.

Asefi rejected the reported deal as media speculation.

Dissatisfied with lack of progress at the talks, Iran 's reformist administration of President Mohammad Khatami has come under increasing pressures to resume nuclear work.