June 2, 2006

Iran signals more defiance on nuclear work

By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) - A senior Iranian nuclear official
signaled Tehran's determination on Friday to press on with its
nuclear work, despite facing what Washington called a "moment
of truth" over a program that could produce atomic weapons.

The remarks by Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's
Atomic Energy Organization, suggested Tehran may have already
decided to reject offers of incentives and negotiations from
six of the world's top powers in return for ending atomic fuel

"Iran is determined to go ahead with its nuclear enrichment
work for peaceful purposes," Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of
Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told students news agency
ISNA. "The Iranian nation will not let us give it up."

The White House urged Iran to study a basket of incentives,
approved by the U.S., British, French, German Russian and
Chinese foreign ministers at a Vienna meeting on Thursday,
before officially responding.

European officials will give Iranian officials a detailed
presentation of the incentives in the next couple of days and a
formal answer was hoped for within weeks, White House spokesman
Tony Snow said.

Asked about Iran's insistence that it would not give up
uranium enrichment, Snow said: "As we've said, we think it's
fair to give the government of Iran an opportunity to review
carefully everything in the package. We understand people may
make statements, but we want to give them time to study this."

Decision-making in Iran can be drawn out by a complex
political structure with ultimate power resting in the hands of
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran, the world's No. 4 oil producer, says it wants to
enrich uranium only to the level required for use in atomic
power reactors and has no interest in making highly-enriched
uranium, a key ingredient in warheads.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a series of
interviews with U.S. television and radio networks, told CBS
Iran was facing a "moment of truth."

"They need to make a choice. The international community
needs to know if negotiation is a real option," Rice told CNN.

Russia and China, who do not believe Iran poses an imminent
threat to peace as Western leaders believe, have been opposed
threatening Iran with sanctions if it defies such demands.

But Rice told CNN: "Russia and China have signed on to the
two paths."

She said that both paths agreed in Vienna, one leading Iran
to international integration with incentives and another path
toward isolation via various disincentives, were "quite

But Western officials would not say if the package
specified what sanctions Iran would face for further defiance,
and Russia said no military action -- mooted by Washington as a
last-resort option -- was on the table now.

"I can say unambiguously that all the agreements from
yesterday's meetings rule out in any circumstances the use of
military force," Lavrov was quoted by RIA news agency as saying
on his return to Moscow from Thursday's Vienna meeting.

If Iran rebuffed the incentives, Lavrov said the big powers
would return to discussing a Council resolution ordering Tehran
to stop enriching uranium. But he said this resolution would
not mention sanctions, contrary to Western wishes.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett touted the
package as "far-reaching and said it gave Iran a chance to
"reach a negotiated agreement based on cooperation."

She said it included an offer to remove Iran's case from
the Council agenda if Tehran shelved uranium enrichment.

Diplomats said earlier the incentives would encompass a
light-water nuclear reactor and an assured foreign supply of
atomic fuel so Iran would not need to enrich uranium itself,
thereby mastering technology with weapons applications.

They had said sanctions could entail visa bans and a freeze
on assets of Iranian officials before resort to trade measures.

(additional reporting by Carol Giacomo in Vienna, Parisa
Hafezi and Edmund Blair in Tehran, Paul Majendie in London,
Richard Balmforth in Moscow)