Iran defiant as EU ups pressure on nuclear programme
4 November 2004 , TEHERAN - Iranian officials are preparing to hold talks with Germany, Britain and France on over its controversial nuclear programme with Teheran torn between willingness to compromise and the urge to maintain national pride. "Whatever we do, we do voluntarily, even suspension of uranium enrichment, we will not accept obligation dictated to us by others," President Mohammad Khatami said, reflecting the duality of the Iranian position. Khatami's predecessor also made clear that Iran could
4 November 2004
TEHERAN - Iranian officials are preparing to hold talks with Germany, Britain and France on over its controversial nuclear programme with Teheran torn between willingness to compromise and the urge to maintain national pride.
"Whatever we do, we do voluntarily, even suspension of uranium enrichment, we will not accept obligation dictated to us by others," President Mohammad Khatami said, reflecting the duality of the Iranian position.
Khatami's predecessor also made clear that Iran could not accept any ultimatum by the EU. "Our policy is simple and quite clear, we are ready for rational negotiations but vehemently reject any language of force or threat by whoever," Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said.
With less than three weeks to go to the deadline enforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Teheran has signalled readiness to at least partly comply with EU demands.
"A time-limited suspension of uranium could be a suitable ground for continuing the negotiations, an unlimited demand would however be out of the question," chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said.
Iran's latest concession is a six-month suspension which observers believe could be extendable to at least one year.
As a sign of national pride, the Iranian parliament last week approved a draft bill which would legalize peaceful use of nuclear technology - and eventually the process of uranium enrichment.
Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh immediately heralded the parliament's move as a sign of solidarity with the government's nuclear policies and not as an effort to block negotiations between the EU and Iran.
In line with the government's efforts to keep the nuclear issue a state-matter", a draft bill by more than 90 conservative MPs pushing the government to ignore E.U. demands was withdrawn by the parliament's presiding board.
Although Iranian officials regard as unrealistic E.U. threats to join the United States in bringing Iran's nuclear case to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the prospect of being turned into another Iraq or even North Korea is not a pleasant one for the Islamic state.
"We have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), followed all NPT regulations, signed even the IAEA additional protocol and fully cooperated with the IAEA inspectors. What can the UNSC accuse us of?" said former IAEA envoy Ali-Akbar Salehi.
"But still we prefer to avoid any confrontations and unnecessary tensions," he added.
On Friday, the Iranian delegation will meet in Paris for the third time with representatives of the EU trio Britain, France and Germany.
Just before the sensitive Paris meeting, President Khatami contacted UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and reassured him once again that Iran was not after nuclear weapons, would be fully committed to the NPT and continue close cooperation with the IAEA.
"We however expect the Europeans to respect the NPT charter which allows all of its members peaceful use of nuclear technology and accordingly, acknowledges Iran's right in this regard," Khatami told Annan.
Unconfirmed press reports that the EU would show some flexibility on the duration of uranium enrichment suspension caused some relief in Teheran. If the EU however continues with its initial demand for unlimited suspension, then the talks in Paris could end in failure.
"We are hopeful to reach the necessary agreements, but even if not, we will be prepared for the worst scenario," government spokesman Ramezanzadeh said without further elaborating.
Subject: German news