Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Iran Rejects Reports It Plans to Scale Nuclear Program Back

Iran, which has the world's second- largest oil and natural gas reserves, said it is pressing ahead with its nuclear program, rejecting reports that it plans to scale the plan back.

Iran is pursuing its enrichment activities ``within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency'' and for energy purposes, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said. ``Halting or stopping enrichment is not on the agenda.''

Chinese, French, German, Russian, U.K. and U.S. diplomats will meet Thursday in Vienna to discuss a package of incentives for Iran to suspend its nuclear work, said a diplomat from one of the participating countries, who was briefed on the meeting. The group will also talk about possible penalties for Iran if it doesn't stop the enrichment, said the diplomat, who declined to be named because the meeting isn't public.

Iran has slowed down its nuclear drive in what may be an attempt to create opening toward the West, the New York Times reported yesterday, citing unnamed diplomats. The Iranians stopped pouring a raw form of uranium into centrifuges 12 days after announcing they had successfully enriched uranium, the diplomats said, according to the Times. The enrichment process purifies uranium for use as a reactor fuel or in a weapon. READ MORE

While rejecting such reports and insisting on the country's right to enrichment, Asefi said Iran would study the forthcoming European proposal. ``Europe has to make the offer and we will study and see how we can follow up on the basis of it,'' Asefi told reporters.

Iran ignored an April 28 non-binding deadline by the United Nations Security Council to suspend uranium enrichment claiming it is entitled to carry out the process under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, to which it is a signatory.