August 27, 2006

Iran atomic work will go on despite deadline

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday it would never stop
uranium enrichment despite a looming U.N. deadline designed to
ensure it cannot develop nuclear weapons.

But chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani reiterated Iran's
stance that it was ready to hold talks on its nuclear program.
Six world powers have offered a package of economic incentives
to the Islamic Republic if it halts uranium enrichment.

"Iran will continue its uranium enrichment. We want to
produce our own nuclear fuel," Larijani was quoted as saying by
the student news agency ISNA. "We will never stop it."

The U.N. Security Council has told Iran to suspend atomic
fuel work by August 31 or face possible sanctions. The West
suspects Iran is secretly trying to make nuclear weapons but
Tehran says its only aim is to generate electricity.

Uranium enrichment can be used to produce fuel for nuclear
power stations or material for nuclear bombs.

"The great decision of our nation in scientific advancement
is an absolute decision and there is no turning back from this
way," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a ceremony to honor
Iran's nuclear scientists, broadcast live on state television.

The Islamic Republic says international sanctions would
only propel oil prices higher, hurting the industrialized

Iran on Sunday tested a long-range, radar-evading missile
called Sagheb (Piercing) during war games in the Gulf. Analysts
have viewed such moves in the past as a signal Iran could
disrupt oil shipping routes if the atomic dispute escalated.

The United States has threatened swift action on sanctions
after August 31 if Iran does not heed the U.N. demand. But
analysts say divisions between the six major powers may delay
any punitive measures.

Britain, Germany and France have been more cautious in
public than Washington about sanctions. Russia and China, both
major trading partners with Iran, have been unwilling to impose
sanctions and could veto such a move in the Security Council.


Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said in a
newspaper interview Rome wanted to join talks with Tehran being
led by the six major powers. Italy has strong trade ties with

Iran said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan would visit
Tehran on September 2, two days after the U.N. deadline

Last Tuesday, Iran responded formally to the package of
incentives proposed by the six powers. It said the 21-page
document contained ideas that would allow serious talks, but
gave no sign it was prepared to halt or suspend enrichment.

"I repeat that Iran is fully prepared to hold constructive
and fair talks anywhere and anytime with the foreign ministers
of the (six major powers) over ... the nuclear issue," state
television quoted Larijani as saying.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on
Friday he would meet Larijani in coming days to discuss "new
elements" raised in Iran's response.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said: "The world must
not delude itself that Iran seeks some sort of real dialogue.
They want to buy time. They must not be allowed to do so.
Sanctions must be under way. The sooner, the better."

Iran insists it will continue its nuclear power plans.
Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy
Organization, said Iran would tender for two more 1,000 MW
nuclear power plants in the year to March 2007. Russians are
building what will be Iran's first atomic power plant.

The group of six say they will hold off on any action until
after an August 31 report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that will judge
whether Iran has halted enrichment-related activity or not.

Diplomats close to the Vienna-based IAEA say the verdict is
all but inevitable -- Iranian nuclear activity continues -- but
that the West could not reasonably have expected otherwise.

"A lot of the media focus has been on Iran's offer being
unacceptable because it didn't include the upfront agreement to
suspend enrichment," said one diplomat, declining to be named.

"But no one, from (U.S. ambassador to the United Nations)
John Bolton to Cinderella's fairy godmother, actually expected
that to happen," said the diplomat, adding that Iran's reply
"that did not rule out suspension as part of negotiations" was
the best anyone could have hoped for.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna, Phil
Stewart in Rome, Dan Williams in Jerusalem)