France offers Iran concessions; Iran holds firm

18th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

VIENNA, Sept 18, 2006 (AFP) - France offered Iran a key concession Monday towards nuclear talks, while Tehran warned it would cut cooperation with UN nuclear inspectors in the event of punitive action by the UN Security Council.

VIENNA, Sept 18, 2006 (AFP) - France offered Iran a key concession Monday towards nuclear talks, while Tehran warned it would cut cooperation with UN nuclear inspectors in the event of punitive action by the UN Security Council.

French President Jacques Chirac said in Paris that world powers should be ready to talk with Iran without threatening sanctions, even if Tehran fails to halt uranium enrichment ahead of the negotiations.

"I propose that on the one hand the six refrain from referring the issue to the Security Council and that Iran renounce during the negotiation the enrichment of uranium," Chirac told Europe 1 radio.

The six nations offering Iran talks on a package of trade and other incentives are the five permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — plus Germany.

It was the first time a leader of one of the six has said the suspension of uranium enrichment could be done during, and not as a precondition, for talks.

Chirac spoke prior to his departure for the UN General Assembly in New York, where he will meet with US President George W. Bush whose administration is pushing a much harder line on Iran.

The United States, which charges Tehran with hiding work on the development of nuclear weapons, wants the UN Security Council to impose sanctions.

Chirac's new stance also jarred with that of the European Union which said in a statement Monday that suspending enrichment activities was "no longer a voluntary confidence-building measure but an international obligation" for Iran.

It does bring France more in line with two other veto-wielding permanent Security Council members — China and Russia — who have also balked at the prospect of sanctions.

An EU diplomat told AFP that Chirac's comments severely undermined the three-nation group leading EU negotiations on Iran, which includes France itself, along with Britain and Germany.

"It weakens our position, that is clear," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

At the annual conference of the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh warned Monday that Tehran would retaliate to any sanctions by blocking cooperation with the agency's nuclear inspectors.

There should "be no doubt that any hostile action by the UN Security Council would lead to limitation of cooperation," said Aghazadeh, who is head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency.

A unilateral approach at the United Nations, "aggressively pursued by one or two states, is bound to cause loss and damage to all," he added.

Iran, Aghazadeh said, still believed a way out of the crisis could be found through negotiations, "relying on good faith, political will and flexibility".

He also stressed that Iran was fighting on behalf of other developing countries against any attempt to restrict their "inalienable rights" to develop and pursure peaceful nuclear activities.

IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei opened the week-long conference of the watchdog agency, whose inspectors monitor compliance with international nuclear safeguards, by saying he remained "hopeful" that Iran and world powers could move towards "long-overdue" negotiations.

EU foreign policy representative Javier Solana and Iranian top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani are pursuing a last-ditch effort to save talks on a nuclear deal.

The IAEA conference, the 50th such annual gathering since the agency was created in 1957, is to include three-days of talks on how to guarantee reactor fuel supply but curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology.

"We all agree that an international framework for an assured fuel supply is critical to meeting the world's energy needs and advancing our non-proliferation goals," said US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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