TEHRAN, Iran, AP -The head of Iran”s nuclear program was reinstated Monday in a sign that the country”s new leadership will maintain a hard line, as French President Jacques Chirac warned that Iran”s stance could force the issue before the U.N. Security Council.
State radio announced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad”s decision to reappoint Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who had run the country”s nuclear program since 1997.
The United States fears Iran is using its nuclear program to create an atomic weapon. Iran says it is only building reactors to generate electricity.
In Paris on Monday, Chirac called on Iran to cooperate in nuclear talks or risk having the issue sent to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
"We call on Iran”s spirit of responsibility to re-establish cooperation and confidence, without which the (U.N.) Security Council will have no choice but to take up the question," Chirac told France”s ambassadors brought home for an annual conference.
Aghazadeh had backed Ahmadinejad”s rival, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, in the June national election that swept the former Tehran mayor into office.
Iran renewed its uranium reprocessing activities at a plant in central city of Isfahan earlier this month after rejecting a European proposal to give up its uranium enrichment program in return for economic incentives. Aghazadeh called the offer a "joke."
Britain, France, and Germany held talks with Iran on behalf of the 25-member European Union. Aghazadeh took a strong line, insisting Europe would only show flexibility if Iran resisted the temptation to accept Western demands.
After saying earlier this month it was ready for further negotiations with the Europeans, Tehran announced on Sunday that it now wanted talks with the U.N.”s international nuclear watchdog agency, rejecting what it called European demands for "conditional negotiations."
The French president implored Tehran on Monday to "truly examine" the offer made by France, Britain and Germany.
Chirac”s comments are the toughest from the French president since the European proposal was presented to Iran earlier this month, though in July he said, "the question should be taken to the Security Council" if Tehran resumed enrichment activities.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has repeatedly warned Iran it could face sanctions.
The three countries called off planned talks set for Aug. 31 after Iran renewed uranium reprocessing at Isfahan, a step that precedes enrichment which can produce fuel either for electricity generating reactors or nuclear weapons.
The Europeans viewed that step as effectively breaking an accord agreed to in Paris last November for Iran to suspend nuclear activities and hold talks.