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Iran rejects halt in nuclear enrichment program

/ Source: The Associated Press

On the eve of talks with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Iran’s nuclear negotiator Wednesday rejected the possibility of Iran suspending its uranium enrichment program.

“Suspension is not the right solution for solving Iran’s nuclear issue,” the state news agency quoted Ali Larijani as saying before leaving Tehran for Spain. “Past experiences have shown that suspension is not acceptable, at all.”

Larijani is expected to hold talks with the EU’s Javier Solana on Thursday.

The talks are meant to explore whether there is room to resume negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which the United States and the EU fear is being used to make weapons. Iran rejects the Western claims, saying its program is for generating electricity only.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, which can produce both reactor fuel and — at higher levels — weapons-grade material. The Security Council first imposed sanctions on Iran on Dec. 23 for rejecting its demands, and then modestly increased them in March.

The council is preparing to debate a third round of punitive measures against Tehran.

Suspension 'unprincipled'
“If Iran is supposed to suspend its nuclear activities, there will be no issue for talks,” said Larijani, adding that the U.N. and U.S. demand for uranium enrichment suspension was “unprincipled.”

However, Larijani said Tehran was prepared and ready to remove the West’s concerns over its nuclear program. “We want to continue our peaceful nuclear program, but others should have no concerns about it as well.”

It was not immediately clear if Larijani’s comment signaled Tehran would take concrete steps to alleviate U.N. nuclear concerns — such as giving more leeway to inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, whose monitoring of Iranian nuclear plants was curtailed by Tehran after the latest round of Security Council sanctions.

On his trip to Spain, Larijani was accompanied by his deputy in international affairs, Javad Vaidi, and also deputy head of Iran’s atomic energy organization, Mohammad Saeedi, IRNA said.

Iran temporarily suspended enrichment under a previous deal with the European Union but that pact collapsed in 2005 and Tehran resumed the work.

Solana is empowered by the world’s major powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany as well as the EU — to explore the scope for formal negotiations on a package of economic, technological and political initiatives if Iran suspends enrichment.