June 22, 2006

Iran could halt fuel work only after talks: Vaeedi

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran could stop enriching uranium "in
the best case" only as a result of negotiations with major
world powers, but not as a precondition for such talks, a
senior Iranian official said on Thursday.

It appeared to be the first time Tehran had hinted at the
possibility of suspending nuclear fuel enrichment the West sees
as an atomic bomb risk. But the insistence that suspension
could only happen after talks was likely to be rejected.

Javad Vaeedi, deputy head of Iran's national security
council and of its nuclear negotiating team, said Tehran was
taking its time to reply to an offer of incentives to halt
nuclear work in order "to maximize the chances of success of
this proposal."

"Iran considers a suspension of uranium enrichment not as a
precondition for talks, rather in the best case as a result of
talks," he said in a speech to a rightist political foundation
in Vienna, headquarters of the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"Negotiations without preconditions is the only way to a
peaceful resolution of this crisis," he said.

He said that under no circumstances would Iran renounce its
"legitimate right" to a civilian nuclear energy program as a
party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The West believes Iran wants to make highly enriched
uranium that could be used in atomic bombs. Tehran says it only
wants to make low-level enriched fuel used in nuclear power

The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and
Germany have presented Iran with a deal, including access to
advanced civilian nuclear technology, but say Tehran must
suspend enrichment before any discussions can start.

Asked after his speech why Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad had set an August 22 deadline for replying to the
offer, more than a month beyond that set by the six powers,
Vaeedi said Iran could not be rushed on such a complex matter.

"The EU countries know that this offer must be considered
by different elements in Iran with different points of view.
This careful study means we are maximizing the chances of
success of this proposal."