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U.S., France reject Iran request for more talks

The United States and France rejected Iran’s request for more negotiations on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying Wednesday “there’s not much to talk about” after Iran resumed some atomic activities.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The United States and France rejected Iran’s request for more negotiations on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying Wednesday “there’s not much to talk about” after Iran resumed some atomic activities.

As European countries pushed ahead with efforts to have Iran brought before the U.N. Security Council for its nuclear activities, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused them of trying to deprive Iran of peaceful technology.

“We are asking they step down from their ivory towers and act with a little logic,” Ahmadinejad said. “Who are you to deprive us from fulfilling our goals?

“You think you are the lord of the world and everybody should follow you. But that idea is a wrong idea.”

Earlier, Iran’s foreign minister said he did not believe the country would be referred to the Security Council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions. However, diplomats say the council is unlikely to take those actions since China and Russia, two veto-wielding members, oppose referral.

Rice: 'Not much to talk about'
Tehran’s defiant tone came as the United States and France rejected Iran’s request for a resumption of negotiations, saying Tehran must first suspend its atomic activities.

Iran asked for a ministerial-level meeting with France, Germany, Britain and the European Union, but its decision to resume some uranium enrichment-related activities “means that it is not possible for us to meet under satisfactory conditions to pursue these discussions,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said in Paris.

“Iran must return to a complete suspension of these activities.”

In Washington, Rice and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also rejected any return to talks.

“There’s not much to talk about,” Rice said during a photo session at the State Department with Solana.

Rice said Iran must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapons capability or “to pursue activities that might to a nuclear weapons capability.”

Solana agreed that “there is not much point” in resuming talks if there is “nothing new on the table.”

The United States, France, Britain and Germany want the Board of Governors of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to convene an emergency meeting Feb. 2 to refer Iran to the Security Council.

The countries have drawn up a draft IAEA resolution asking the Security Council to press Tehran “to extend full and prompt cooperation to the agency” in its investigation of suspect nuclear activities — though it stops short of asking the council to impose sanctions.

A European diplomat accredited to the IAEA said Wednesday there were no significant changes in the language of the draft resolution.

“We are pretty well where we were yesterday,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media about the draft.

Russia, China reluctant
Russia and China — as well as Egypt, which also sits on the 35-nation IAEA Board of Governors — are reluctant to support Iran’s referral.

“In view of the overall situation, we regard the possibility of the hauling of Iran’s nuclear case to the Security Council to be weak,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told state radio.

“During the past 10 days we have tried to relay our message to all relevant parties, including the Europeans, about Iran’s readiness to negotiate on the production of nuclear fuel.”

Mottaki said he hoped European countries would avoid taking steps that could only worsen the current situation — an apparent reference to U.S. and European talk of sanctions.

Ahmadinejad shrugged off the draft resolution, calling it politically motivated and said he was unconcerned by the attempts to refer Iran to the council.

“There isn’t any problem. This is their endeavor. We can’t stop others from trying,” he told reporters.

The United States accuses Iran of trying to secretly build nuclear weapons — a charge Iran denies. Britain, France and Germany, with U.S. backing, have been trying to persuade Iran to import nuclear fuel instead of having its own uranium enrichment program, but Iran has rejected this.

The Bush administration sent U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns to London to coordinate a strategy with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia on dealing with Iran. Burns conceded differences remained after Tuesday’s meeting.

“We reached a consensus on some points ... others need to be worked on,” he said in Bombay, India, during a South Asia tour.

“There is a consensus that Iran should turn back, return to negotiations and suspend its nuclear program. But that’s not the path Iran is on now.”

A delegation of Israeli security experts was in Moscow on Wednesday to meet with Russia’s Security Council and Foreign Ministry in hopes of winning Russian backing for Security Council referral.

Russia’s Interfax news agency said the head of country’s nuclear energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, met with the delegation led by Israeli National Security Chief Giora Eiland.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy was scheduled to meet with Russian officials on Thursday.