October 11, 2009
Iran dismissed on Monday a U.S. warning that major powers would not wait forever for Tehran to prove it was not developing nuclear bombs, saying any threats or deadlines would have no impact on the Islamic Republic.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi, speaking a week before talks on a proposal to send Iranian uranium abroad for further processing, also reiterated Iran's refusal to discuss its "nuclear rights" with the six world powers.
"We have announced several times that we have nothing to discuss regarding that," he told a Tehran news conference in comments translated by Iran's state Press TV.Such comments were likely to fan Western suspicions that Iran is seeking to win time by stringing out inconclusive talks while mastering nuclear technology and stockpiling enriched uranium of potential use for atomic energy or weaponry.
"That means continuation of our activities within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the safeguards agreement of the IAEA and enrichment on that basis," he said, referring to the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
Western diplomats believe Iran is trying to show just enough flexibility to keep trade allies Russia and China opposed to painful U.N. sanctions which could target its energy sector.
The West suspects Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability behind the facade of what Tehran says is a civilian enrichment programme aimed at generating electricity.
Britain said on Monday it had ordered financial firms to cease business with Iran's Bank Mellat and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines to counter a "significant risk" posed by Iranian activity facilitating development of nuclear weapons.
"The international community will not wait indefinitely for evidence that Iran is prepared to live up to its international obligations," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in London on Sunday, alluding to U.N. demands for a nuclear halt.Asked about her remark, Qashqavi said:
"If there is a deadline or any kind of threat in their comments, they will not impact us in any way."In talks that both sides called constructive, Iran agreed with the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain in Geneva on Oct. 1 to give U.N. inspectors access to a newly disclosed enrichment plant near the city of Qom.
IRAN SUGGESTS IT DOESN'T NEED FUEL DEAL
Western diplomats say Iran also agreed in principle to send about 80 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing and return to Tehran. This would replenish dwindling fuel stocks for a reactor in the capital that produces medical isotopes, mainly for cancer care.
Iranian, Russian, French, U.S. and International Atomic Energy Agency officials will meet in Vienna on Oct. 19 to flesh out conditions, such as amounts of uranium to be sent abroad.
"There are 150 hospitals dependent on this reactor ... We want to receive this fuel from outside. That's why we are going to have the meeting and we hope that we'll reach an agreement," Qashqavi said.But, echoing remarks by a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, he also suggested Tehran could provide the highly processed fuel material itself if there was no deal on external supply.
A Western security source in Europe said Iran earlier this year approved a plan to enrich uranium to 19.7 percent - well above the level needed for generating electricity - to yield material for the Tehran reactor without foreign help.
The plan set out a timetable of one year for fulfilment, he said. The source's account could not be immediately verified.
Any hint that Iran may embark on refining uranium above the 3.5 to 5 percent typically needed for power plant fuel would heighten Western fears of nuclear proliferation in the country.
Iran needs uranium refined to a purity of 19.7 percent for its Tehran reactor. Uranium refined to 20 percent or above is classified as highly enriched - theoretically usable for the fissile core of a nuclear bomb, although a minimum 80-90 percent is normally required for a viable weapon.
For world powers, the fuel deal's attraction would be in diminishing Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, already enough to fuel one bomb if Tehran chose to enrich it further.
For Iran it would preserve medical isotope production.
Tehran has repeatedly rejected demands to halt or restrain its enrichment programme, despite three rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006. The moderate progress in the Geneva talks muted Western calls for tougher sanctions in the near future.