TEHRAN, (Reuters) – A Russian proposal to form a joint venture with Iran to enrich uranium on Russian soil deprives Tehran of its nuclear rights and is unacceptable, Iran’s hardline media said on Saturday.
Diplomats and analysts say Iran’s ultra-conservative press often reflects the uncompromising official stance on the nuclear programme and is also often used to spell out the country’s negotiating position on the issue.
The Russian plan, which is backed by the European Union and Washington, is designed to allay international concerns that Tehran could produce its own highly enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons.
Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to a low grade suitable for use in nuclear power reactors.
Iranian officials have said they are prepared to discuss the Russian proposal but will not abandon their drive to enrich uranium on Iranian soil.
“Pointless atomic negotiations, this time with Russia,” said a front-page headline of the hardline Jomhouri-ye Eslami newspaper.
“Experts: Russian plan is not negotiable,” said the ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper.
Kayhan’s editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was quoted as saying: “Since Moscow’s proposal has crossed Iran’s red lines in nuclear activities, it leaves no space for negotiations.”
The paper also quoted Mohammad Kiarashi, a former Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency as saying: “In Iran’s view, this plan is a dead proposal and is not acceptable at all.”
In an editorial entitled “Russian Candy”, Jomhouri-ye-Eslami urged Iranian officials to reject Moscow’s plan.
“Joint enrichment beyond Iranian borders means nothing but depriving Iran of independent nuclear technology and the fuel cycle,” it said.
“Accepting such a thing would be like giving away Iran’s independence to foreigners and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s officials will never accept such a shameful thing,” it added.
While emphasising Iran’s goal to produce its own nuclear fuel for atomic reactors on its own soil, Iranian officials have been careful not to reject the Russian proposal outright.
Analysts say Tehran is aware that rejection of Moscow’s plan would increase calls, led by Washington, for Iran’s nuclear case to be sent to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose economic and political sanctions on Iran.