Iranian nuclear negotiator rejects enrichment suspension

Iran’s nuclear negotiator today rejected the possibility of Iran suspending its controversial nuclear enrichment programme.

Iran’s nuclear negotiator today rejected the possibility of Iran suspending its controversial nuclear enrichment programme.

“Suspension is not the right solution for solving Iran’s nuclear issue,” the state news agency quoted Ali Larijani as saying on the eve of talks with the European Union foreign policy chief in Spain.

“Past experiences have shown that suspension is not acceptable, at all.”

Mr Larijani, who arrives in Madrid this afternoon, is expected to hold talks with EU’s Javier Solana tomorrow.

The talks are meant to explore whether there is room to resume negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, which the United States and the EU fear is being used to make weapons. Iran rejects Western claims, saying its programme is for generating electricity only.

The UN Security Council has demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment, which can produce both reactor fuel and – at higher levels – weapons-grade material. The Security Council first imposed sanctions on Iran on December 23 for rejecting its demands, and then modestly increased them in March.

The council is preparing to debate a third round of punitive measures against Tehran.

“If Iran is supposed to suspend its nuclear activities, there will be no issue for talks,” said Mr Larijani, adding that the UN and US demand for uranium enrichment suspension was “unprincipled”.

However, Mr Larijani said Tehran was prepared and ready to remove the West’s concerns over its nuclear programme. “We want to continue our peaceful nuclear programme, but others should have no concerns about it as well.”

It was not immediately clear if Mr Larijani’s comment signalled Tehran would take concrete steps to alleviate UN nuclear concerns – such as giving more leeway to inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, whose monitoring of Iranian nuclear plants was curtailed by Tehran after the latest round of Security Council sanctions.

On his trip to Spain, Mr Larijani was accompanied by his deputy in international affairs, Javad Vaidi and also deputy head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, Mohammad Saeedi, IRNA said.

Iran temporarily suspended enrichment under a previous deal with the European Union but that pact collapsed in 2005 and Tehran resumed the work.

Mr Solana is empowered by the world’s major powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany as well as the EU – to explore the scope for formal negotiations on a package of economic, technological and political initiatives if Iran suspends enrichment.

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