Sunday, January 29, 2006

Iran Urges Talks to Solve Nuclear Impasse

Parisa Hafezi, Reuters:
Iran insisted on Sunday the only solution to its nuclear dispute with the West was negotiations rather than referral of its atomic dossier to the United Nations Security Council.

Iran, which the United States and other major Western powers suspect is trying to make a nuclear bomb, urged more diplomacy before talks on the issue among the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany in London on Monday.

On the same day, Iran will meet diplomats from Britain, France and Germany -- three European Union powers that have negotiated with Tehran over its nuclear program -- in Brussels, a Tehran foreign ministry spokesman said.

Iran, which says its nuclear program is to make electricity not a bomb, has responded positively to a Russian compromise proposal, also backed by the United States, for uranium to be enriched in Russia instead of Iran.

"The only way to reach an understanding and to get out of the current situation is talks," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference.

"Referring Iran to the Security Council will not solve anything." READ MORE

France Britain and Germany have warned Iran it could be hauled before the Security Council over its disputed atomic work for a vote on economic sanctions, but they have also hoped for a diplomatic way out of the standoff.

U.S. President George W. Bush's administration has also urged diplomacy.

"The president has always been clear -- he has said explicitly the military option is not off the table but we are engaged in a diplomatic effort," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried told British television on Sunday.

Asefi warned the European Union of the consequences of a Security Council referral.

"Hardening the atmosphere will have no results. Imposing sanctions on Iran will pressure the EU more than us," Asefi said, without elaborating.


Monday's London talks is at foreign minister level and seeks agreement a referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council at an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on February 2.

Javad Vaeedi, deputy head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, will meet the diplomats from the three EU powers, known as the EU3, in Brussels.

"Europeans should be patient and try to find a formula to resolve this nuclear issue," Asefi said. "We are determined to remove any ambiguities over our nuclear ambitions and also protect our right."

Russia and China, both veto-wielding Security Council members, oppose referral of Tehran to the Security Council at the IAEA's crisis meeting, calling it premature.

Asefi said Tehran and Moscow were discussing Russia's proposal under which uranium would be enriched for Iran's nuclear reactors under a joint venture in Russia. Washington has backed the proposal.

Enriched uranium can be used in both nuclear power reactors and, when highly enriched, nuclear bombs.

"It can be a useful plan if seen as a package. The plan needs more work on it," Asefi said.

Iran has repeatedly said Iran would never abandon its drive to enrich uranium on its own soil. But in a bid to allay increased international tension, it has signaled it is leaning toward accepting the compromise solution.

Iran removed U.N. seals and resumed sensitive atomic fuel research this month, suspended under a 2004 deal with the EU3, fuelling suspicious about the nature of its nuclear program.