Iran stands firm on uranium enrichment

iran nuclear stand offTEHRAN, June 25, 2006 (AFP) – Iran repeated on Sunday that it will not suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks on its disputed nuclear program, state television reported.

"The suspension of enrichment is one step backward. We think Europe should negotiate without preconditions… which only cloud the negotiating atmosphere," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

"Instead of setting preconditions that are both unreasonable and baseless, we should negotiate," he added.

On June 6 Iran was presented with an international proposal promising incentives and multilateral talks if it agrees to temporarily halt uranium enrichment activities — at the heart of fears the hardline regime could develop nuclear weapons.

Iran’s nuclear negotiators insist that the work is to provide fuel for nuclear energy only, and that Tehran will not call a halt to it.

On Saturday Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in Berlin Tehran was "very seriously studying" the package offered by the five permanent UN Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany to resolve the crisis over its nuclear ambitions peacefully.

Speaking after meeting his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Mottaki said he saw "very positive points" in the proposal but also "ambiguities".

Germany is part of the so-called EU-3 along with Britain and France which has been working for more than two years to try to resolve the Iran nuclear crisis and, most recently, broker consensus on the issue with the US, China and Russia.

Berlin has long-standing diplomatic relations and strong economic ties with Iran, which diplomats say has given it a key role in the negotiations.

Javad Vaidi, deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said on Friday that suspending uranium enrichment would be neither a precondition for talks with the world powers on its nuclear activities nor an outcome of those discussions.

"Iran considers that suspension is neither a precondition to nor the result of negotiations," Vaidi told AFP.