Friday, September 22, 2006

Rafsanjani Says Suspending Enrichment "Unacceptable"

An influential Iranian cleric said on Friday that Iran would not halt uranium enrichment work, calling it an unacceptable precondition set by six world powers for talks over the country's atomic activities. "It (enrichment suspension) is a ridiculous precondition. It is unacceptable," Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told worshippers at Tehran university, broadcast live on state radio. READ MORE

Enrichment suspension is the key condition set by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany for talks on a package of economic and technological incentives in exchange for Iran ending efforts to produce nuclear fuel.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran was prepared to negotiate its uranium enrichment suspension "under fair and just conditions". He gave no time-frame for halting Iran's most sensitive part of nuclear work.

Iran says it wants to enrich uranium only for electricity. The West suspects a camouflaged quest for nuclear weapons.

Rafsanjani, a top adviser to Iran's most powerful leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged the world powers to start talks without preconditions to resolve the dispute.

"We have always expressed our readiness ready to hold talks (with the West). But with such a precondition, what is the use of talks?" Rafsanjani said.

An Iranian official in Tehran said Solana would hold talks with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani next week in an undisclosed European capital.

The Islamic state ignored a U.N. deadline to halt its nuclear fuel enrichment by Aug. 31, and major powers agreed this week to give EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, representing the six powers, until early October to reach a deal with Tehran.

If Tehran still refuses to suspend enrichment, the six powers will ask for U.N. sanctions to be imposed on the country.

Former President Rafsanjani heads the powerful Expediency Council, Iran's main legislative arbitration body.