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Sunday, September 03, 2006

I guess Iran made a decision

Tehran refuses to give up 'one iota' of nuclear rights Bush: time for iran to make a choice

Farhad Pouladi

Agence France Presse

TEHRAN: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a curt message to global powers Friday vowing Iran "will not give up one iota" of its nuclear rights, in the first official reaction to a critical International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report. "The enemies should know Iranians are standing firm on obtaining their rights and will not give up one iota of their nuclear rights," Ahmadinejad told a rally in the northwestern city of Makou, state media reported.

On Thursday, the UN nuclear watchdog concluded in a confidential report that the Islamic Republic had not suspended its enrichment-related activities, as demanded by the Security Council's five permanent members along with Germany.

The deputy chief of Iran's nuclear agency insisted the report was "not negative" and vowed to continue uranium enrichment for research purposes while keeping open negotiations with the international community.

"The report is very factual and adds that the Iranian nuclear program is under the supervision of the IAEA and that there has been no deviation" toward any military purpose, he said. Iran insists it is exercising a right to develop civilian atomic energy.

On Friday, Russia expressed "regret that Iran did not fulfill the demands of [UN] Resolution 1696 ... and did not stop work on uranium enrichment," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.

Russia and China have consistently resisted calls for sanctions against Iran in connection with its nuclear enrichment work however, preferring a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

In a speech to university students, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We will consider a whole range of options ... but only those options that take us forward."

The IAEA report was filed to the Security Council as an August 31 deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment expired, possibly leading to UN sanctions against Tehran.

Uranium enrichment provides fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but in highly refined form can also serve as the raw material for atom bombs.

In New York, US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said the report "provides ample evidence of [Iranian] defiance."

European foreign ministers meeting on Friday in Finland were faced with a diplomatic tight-rope act - considering sanctions with Washington without compromising dialogue with Tehran.

"European Union diplomacy remains the number-one way forward," Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja told reporters. "If their [Iran's] response is truly what they say, that they are ready to engage in negotiations, then we have to see what the conditions are, if these can be met," he said.

As the Security Council deadline passed, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also sought to maintain diplomatic efforts, agreeing to meet with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Berlin on Wednesday.

They were to discuss Iran's 21-page response to an international package of political and economic incentives in exchange for Tehran suspending uranium enrichment.

According to a Western diplomat in Vienna, those talks would be followed soon after by a meeting in the German capital of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

Once the UN deadline expired, Washington said it was now time to act.

In a speech to a US veterans' group, President George W. Bush said: "It is time for Iran to make a choice. "We will continue to work closely with our allies to plan a diplomatic solution, but there must be consequences for Iran's defiance and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon."

Iran's ambassador to France told France-Info radio that Tehran would repel any US military attack.

"If they go that way, we will be forced to defend ourselves. We are capable of defending ourselves and confronting any sort of threat," he said.

US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who will represent Washington in Berlin, said he expected the Security Council to adopt a sanctions plan within a month, although either China or Russia could veto such a proposal.

Late on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad urged the Europeans to reject the "wrong and aggressive" policies of the United States, which broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980, and to pursue negotiations.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said that the IAEA report "clearly shows that Iran has acted within the framework of the international safeguards and Non-Proliferation Treaty and is ready to answer the remaining issues through talks with the IAEA."


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