Monday, September 18, 2006

Iran Denies Reports On Freezing Uranium

The Wall Street Journal:
Iran on Monday denied reports that the country was ready to consider freezing uranium enrichment for up to two months as a senior Iranian official warned against U.N. sanctions, saying his country would respond by cutting international inspections of its nuclear program.

Government spokesman Gholan Hossein Elham said in Tehran that any mention of Iran agreeing to suspend its nuclear program, even temporarily, was "just a misconception." Both sides of the negotiation "have not reached any conclusion in this regard," Mr. Elham told reporters. READ MORE

Diplomats in Vienna, who were familiar with talks between senior Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Sept. 10 that Tehran was ready to consider temporarily complying with a U.N. Security Council demand that it halt enrichment. The diplomats asked to remain anonymous because they weren't authorized to speak to the press. Mr. Solana has not confirmed what the diplomats said.

Mr. Elham didn't elaborate Monday but said that he didn't think any issue was "insolvable." "Upon determination of both parties, the negotiation could be continued," he said.

Tehran insists its nuclear activities are purely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity, but the U.S. and some of its Western allies fear Iran wants to develop a weapons program.

Iranian Vice President Reza Aghazadeh also said in Vienna on Monday at the International Atomic Energy Agency conference that his country was "ready for negotiations and political compromise." But he also threatened cutting international inspections of Iran's nuclear program in response to "hostile action."

Iran defied an Aug. 30 deadline set by the Security Council, which demanded Iran stop enrichment or face sanctions. Tehran has refused to alter its nuclear program as a precondition to talks with Western countries.

Earlier Monday, French President Jacques Chirac suggested that the international community suspend the threat of U.N. sanctions in exchange for Iran's suspension of uranium enrichment during negotiations.

"I don't believe in a solution without dialogue," Mr. Chirac said on Europe-1 radio before heading to the General Assembly meeting.

European diplomats are considering meeting with Iran on the sidelines of this week's U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York in hopes of de-escalating the standoff. The U.S. though has said it will participate only if Iran stops enrichment work first.