October 16, 2005

Iran says wants nuclear talks, but no concessions

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran insisted on Sunday that it wanted
to return to nuclear negotiations with the European Union but
gave no ground on the EU's key demand that it halt all nuclear
fuel processing before talks can resume.

Britain, France and Germany have said they want Iran to
halt uranium processing at its Isfahan plant which Tehran
resumed in August.

Otherwise, the EU trio say, they will back Washington's
efforts to haul Iran before the U.N. Security Council where it
could eventually face sanctions. Iran says its nuclear
programme will only be used to generate electricity, not make

"We are ready to continue unconditional talks and hope to
reach a result through talks and avoid the Council," Foreign
Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a news conference.

Almost two years of talks between Iran and the EU broke
down in August when Tehran broke U.N. seals at the Isfahan
plant where uranium is converted into a gas that can be used to
make nuclear reactor fuel or bomb warheads.

"Iran will never again suspend Isfahan facility's
activities. It was a voluntary measure and was lifted
automatically," Asefi said.

Washington and the EU are trying to persuade the governing
board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to send
Iran to the Security Council in November for violating
international nuclear obligations.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed on Saturday
to win Russia's support for referring Iran to the Council, but
said Washington still expects to be able to refer Tehran to the
Council "at a time of our choosing" if diplomatic efforts fail.

Rice flew to Moscow on a surprise trip on Saturday to press
President Vladimir Putin to commit to backing a referral if
Iran continues to defy the West, diplomats said.

But with Russia leery of punitive measures against a
country it has strong commercial ties with, Putin was unmoved
and reaffirmed Russia's position that the IAEA must deal with

Rice acknowledged Putin did not change his mind and she
settled instead for accepting Moscow's pledge to work on
coaxing Iran back to the talks with the EU over curbing its

Asefi said there was no legal basis for Iran's case to be
referred to the Council, adding that Iran had little to fear
from referral to the Council.

"The Council cannot be used as a Sword of Damocles against
Iran. We cannot be threatened by referral," he said.

Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Saturday
Iran was ready to resolve the nuclear impasse through

"Tehran is ready to begin talks on the country's nuclear
dossier without any preconditions," Rafsanjani was quoted as
saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Iranian media have speculated that Rafsanjani has been
authorised by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to lead
Iran out of the nuclear standoff.