Sunday, March 05, 2006

Iran Defiant Ahead of IAEA Meeting
Iran will not freeze sensitive nuclear "research" work even if it is hauled before the UN Security Council, the Islamic republic's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Sunday.

Speaking on the eve of a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that could prompt Security Council action, Larijani asserted Iran was not intending to use oil as a weapon in the dispute or quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- but nevertheless warned this could change if the crisis worsened. READ MORE

"Research and development is in our national interest and Iran will not go back on that," he told a news conference. "Going to the Security Council will certainly not make Iran go back on research and development."

He added that Tehran would instead retaliate to such a move by pressing ahead with full-scale uranium enrichment work.

International concerns are centered on Iran's bid to master uranium enrichment, even via small-scale research.

"We want them to give us time"

Tehran says it only wants to make reactor fuel, but the process can be extended to the fissile core of a nuclear weapon and the West is determined to prevent Iran acquiring this know-how.

"We want them to treat our case logically," Larijani said of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose 35-nation board is to begin meeting in Vienna on Monday. "We want them to give us time and keep it within the IAEA."

Larijani said Iran was only prepared to hold off on large-scale enrichment.

"We are ready to remove concerns and we accept to have a timetable for enrichment," he said.

The United States and the European powers, however, have already said that such a concession does not go far enough and want to see Iran halt all work related to enrichment and show greater cooperation with the IAEA's now three-year-old investigation.

With Security Council action likely, Western powers have been mulling what pressure -- including possible sanctions -- could be used against Iran if it refuses to return to a moratorium on sensitive nuclear work.

But Iran, OPEC's second biggest producer, has consistently warned that any sanctions would have worse consequences for the rest of the world.

"We have no interest in using oil as a weapon because we respect the psychological security of the international community," Larijani said, repeating Iran's position that it would not initiate such a move.

"But naturally if they change the situation that will automatically be affected too," he warned, ading that "sanctions will not affect us much, and some solutions have been thought about for those which would affect us."