Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Iran Says It Won't Exit Nuclear Treaty

Nicholas Paphitis, Chron.com:
An Iranian official said Tuesday that Tehran had no intention of withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and promised to cooperate if the U.N. atomic watchdog agency dealt with the issue of its nuclear program, rather than the U.N. Security Council.

The five permanent members of the Security Council are working on a resolution to pressure Iran to give up uranium enrichment and clear up questions about its nuclear program. Germany said Monday night another 10 days to two weeks would be needed to complete negotiations on the resolution, with five or six issues remaining.

Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said in Athens that Tehran would adhere to the nonproliferation treaty. On Sunday, Iran's parliament threatened to ask the government to withdraw its signature from a protocol in the treaty that allows intrusive surprise inspections of nuclear facilities.

"We have no reason to leave the NPT. Our case is completely different from that of North Korea," Larijani said during a visit to Athens. "The additional protocol is one thing and the NPT is another," he said. READ MORE

"There must be a balance between the rights and the obligations stemming from the NPT," Larijani said. "It is not fair that we should have all the obligations but not enjoy the rights."

Larijani is holding a series of meetings in the region that are apparently part of an Iranian push to boost support as tension grows with the United States.

"There should not be hasty movements that will lead us to a confrontation," Larijani said. "There is time for diplomacy, the basic body that must solve this issue is the International Atomic Energy Agency," the U.N. watchdog.

Sending Iran's nuclear file to the Security Council was "a step in the wrong direction," he said.

The United States is backing efforts by Britain and France to win Security Council approval for a resolution that would threaten possible measures if Iran does not suspend uranium enrichment. If taken to sufficient levels, the enrichment process can produce fuel for nuclear weapons.

Russia and China, the other veto-holding members of the Security Council, oppose sanctions.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met privately for more than two hours Monday night with foreign ministers from the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to talk about Iran.

"I think they probably need another 10 days, 14 days, to get that resolution back up," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said "we took stock of the situation. We're in the process of discussing things."

"We all agree on (the need for) suspension of sensitive nuclear activities. The discussion tonight was about including this in the resolution. The discussion tonight was also on the ways of presenting a set of both incentive and deterrent measures," Douste-Blazy said.

China on Tuesday urged flexibility in reaching a negotiated settlement, rejecting the "threat of force."

Beijing has warned that the British- and French-sponsored resolution could lead to war.

"The Iran nuclear dispute is at a crucial junction. We hope relevant sides can show flexibility, restraint and calmness in order to create favorable conditions for the resumption of talks," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

"We are in favor of a diplomatic solution. We are never in favor of the wanton use of force or the threat of force," Liu said.

The United States, meanwhile, dismissed a letter to President Bush from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to try to ease tensions. Rice said the letter, which covers history, philosophy and religion, did not help resolve the nuclear standoff.

"This letter is not the place that one would find an opening to engage on the nuclear issue or anything of the sort," Rice said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. "It isn't addressing the issues that we're dealing with in a concrete way."

The letter _ the first such communication between Tehran and Washington in 27 years _ criticized the United States over a host of issues, including the response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the invasion of Iraq, and U.S. support for Israel.

It made only an oblique reference to Iran's intentions about its nuclear program, asking why "any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East region is translated into and portrayed as a threat to the Zionist regime."

Before leaving on a trip to Indonesia, Ahmadinejad called his letter "important news."

"What I said in my letter was the demands of Iranian people and our nation. I discussed our views, beliefs and positions regarding international issues as well as some ways out of problems humanity is suffering from," he said.

Indonesian Foreign Minster Hassan Wirajuda, meanwhile urged Iran to be more open in its uranium enrichment program, but defended its right to produce nuclear energy.

"We want Iran to be more transparent in its program," Wirajuda said. "We also want Iran's nuclear development program ... to fulfill the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency."

Wirajuda said developing nuclear energy was "a basic right for every country."

Iran claims it has the right to enrich uranium for a peaceful civilian nuclear program to produce electricity and has refused to comply with a Security Council demand in late March to suspend enrichment.