Friday, April 14, 2006

Iran Rejects U.N. Request to Halt Its Nuclear Activity

The Los Angeles Times:
Iran rebuffed a request from U.N. nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Thursday that it suspend uranium enrichment, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted that his country would not retreat "one iota." ElBaradei looked much less optimistic after four hours of talks with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, than he had when he arrived for the one-day visit.

ElBaradei, who is hoping to head off a confrontation between Tehran and the Security Council, put forward the U.N. request for Iran to suspend enrichment until questions over its nuclear program are resolved.

But Larijani indicated that suspension was not an option. "Such proposals are not very important ones," he told reporters while standing next to ElBaradei at a joint news conference after the talks.

Hours earlier, Ahmadinejad said Iranians would not retreat from enrichment.

"We won't hold talks with anyone about the right of the Iranian nation [to enrich uranium], and no one has the right to retreat, even one iota," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

"Our answer to those who are angry about Iran achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle is just one phrase. We say: 'Be angry at us and die of this anger,' " Ahmadinejad said. READ MORE

Iran says its nuclear work is solely for peaceful, civilian purposes, but the U.S. and a number of its allies believe that Tehran wants a nuclear arsenal.

ElBaradei said the extent of Iran's nuclear program was uncertain. "We have not seen diversion of nuclear material for weapons purposes, but the picture is still hazy and not very clear," he said.

During the 20 years of Iran's nuclear program, "lots of activities went unreported," ElBaradei said.

Higher-level enrichment makes uranium suitable for a nuclear bomb, although Western experts familiar with Iran's program say the country is far from producing weapons-grade uranium.

ElBaradei said that in their talks, Larijani had renewed Iran's commitment "to provide clarity to outstanding issues before I write my report" to the International Atomic Energy Agency board.

The Security Council has given Iran until April 28 to cease enrichment of uranium. But Iran has rejected the demand and announced Tuesday that, for the first time, it had enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges — a step toward large-scale production.

Representatives of the five permanent Security Council members — the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia — discussed the latest development Thursday morning. The U.S. and Europe are pressing for sanctions, a step that Russia and China have so far opposed.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there would "have to be some consequence" for Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment activities.