Iran refuses to return to full suspension

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran said Sunday it would not return to a full freeze of its disputed nuclear activities, but nevertheless voiced confidence it would not face referral to the UN Security Council.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called on Iran to halt uranium conversion work at its Isfahan facility, and the European Union has set this as a condition for resuming negotiations.

But when asked if Iran would again halt uranium conversion work, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi simply replied: “No.”

“The suspension was voluntary and we are not ready to go back on our decision,” he told reporters, sticking by Iran’s position that it only wants to make reactor fuel and that it has a right to do so as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The refusal to suspend work at Isfahan means Iran is unlikely to resume negotiations with Britain, France and Germany ahead of the next meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board in November.

The so-called EU-3, backed by the United States, would therefore be expected to push for the case to be referred to the Security Council.

Talks between Iran and the EU-3 broke down in August, when Iran rejected a deal that offered trade and other incentives for a full cessation of fuel cycle work, the focus of fears that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons.

Iran also ended a freeze on fuel cycle work by resuming uranium conversion — a precursor to potentially dual-use civilian and military enrichment work — in defiance of an accord struck with the EU-3 in Paris last November.

“There is no judicial or legal reason to send the Iranian dossier to the Security Council,” Asefi asserted.

“Many countries have this view,” he said, mentioning China and Russia as examples and then drifting into Greek mythology: “You cannot use the threat of the Security Council like the sword of Damocles over the head of Iran.”

Last month, Beijing abstained from voting on an IAEA resolution that found Iran to be in non-compliance with the NPT, and is eager not to see the tensions with Iran escalate.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said Saturday that Moscow saw no reason to put the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council as sought by Washington.

“We are concentrating on negotiations and dialogue,” Asefi said, but acknowledged that full-scale talks with the Europeans remained frozen.

“Our ambassadors are in contact in European capital and elsewhere. But these contacts are not like before.”

The Iranian parliament’s foreign affairs and national security commission, meanwhile, approved the outlines of a bill that would force the government to stop implementing the additional protocol to the NPT — which allows tougher IAEA inspections — if Iran is referred to the Security Council.

Iran’s hardline government has already threatened to take such a step, and said it could even resume enrichment.

In London, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeated Washington’s backing of the EU-3.

She said September’s IAEA resolution “was an opportunity for the Iranians to get back into negotiations to find an acceptable solution that allows them to have a civil nuclear power that does not raise questions.

“I am not [going] to set deadlines… At the time of our choosing, we will push for a referral” to the Security Council, she said.

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