Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reactor Deal 'Like Trading Chocolate for Gold' Says Iran

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has poured scorn on a European package of incentives designed to persuade the Islamic state to break off its nuclear programme, saying that to accept them would be like trading chocolate for gold.

Britain, France and Germany had planned to offer Iran a light-water nuclear reactor if Teheran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment research.

Mr Ahmadinejad said: "They say we want to give Iranians incentives but they think they are dealing with a four-year-old, telling him they will give him chocolate or walnuts and take gold from him in return."

In later remarks, broadcast live on ranian television, he said: "Don't force governments and nations who are signatories to the atomic Non-Proliferation Treaty to pull out of it."

America and the EU have repeatedly accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy programme.

The offer of a light-water nuclear reactor was to serve as a test of Iran's intentions, as light-water plants are more difficult to convert to military purposes than heavy-water plants.

Iran was not expected to take up the offer, but rejection will be interpreted widely as a sign that its nuclear ambitions are not entirely peaceable, as it has repeatedly claimed.

The European group first proposed offering Iran light-water technology in 2005. At the time, Teheran said the offer lacked specific incentives.

EU diplomats said the new offer would be more specific, owing to the promise of full support from America.

But they saw little prospect that Iran would accept the deal.

The main aim of the offer was to show sceptics such as Russia and China that the West was not trying to deprive Iran of civilian nuclear energy. READ MORE