Iranian President: Iran will only Talk to IAEA on N. Issue

A02510721.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran said on Wednesday it would only discuss its nuclear program with the UN atomic watchdog, rejecting a call by world powers to hold more talks with the EU’s foreign policy chief.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments, carried on state media, were his first since the UN Security Council voted on Monday for a third round of sanctions because Iran has refused to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran insists its plans are peaceful and has long called for its nuclear file to be returned to the International Atomic Energy Agency, instead of being handled by the Security Council.

A statement by world powers on Monday said the group wanted European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to try to reopen talks with an offer of incentives for Iran to halt its work.

“From now on our nuclear issue is with the agency only and we will not negotiate with anyone outside the agency about Iran’s nuclear issue,” the president said.

In remarks carried by ISNA, Ahmadinejad said, “It is not acceptable to us that some people outside the agency would want to negotiate about Iran’s nuclear issue.”

A senior Iranian official, who asked not to be named, said the president was ruling out discussions with Solana on this basis. “This carrot and stick policy does not work with us. So they should review their policy,” the official said.

“We are in a new chapter, a new time for talks without limitations or preconditions,” the official said, adding Iran was ready to discuss issues such as energy, regional security, trade relations or nuclear power plants which Iran wants.

Ahmadinejad said the latest sanctions resolution, which followed two previous ones in December 2006 and March 2007, “lacks legal credibility”.

Solana has been leading talks with Iran on behalf of the five permanent Security Council members – the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia – plus Germany in a bid to try to end the standoff.

Britain’s envoy, John Sawers, reading out the statement to the Council by the six powers, said they were willing to beef up the incentives offer Solana delivered to Tehran in 2006 if Iran suspended uranium enrichment but did not elaborate.

As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Iran is entitled to enrich uranium, a process needed for producing fuel for nuclear power plants.

When Solana met Jalili in January, Solana’s spokeswoman had said the meeting had been designed to keep a channel of communication open. Solana has held several rounds of meetings with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator without any breakthrough.

The resolution imposed more travel and financial curbs on Iranian individuals and companies, expanded a ban on trade in items with both civilian and military uses.

Iran has dismissed the impact of two previous rounds of sanctions, saying it has always been under sanctions since the onset of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The US-led west is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one on Friday – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East last month has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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