TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran has accused the United States of double standards over its nuclear deal with India, Iranian media said on Saturday, the day of an informal deadline set by Western officials in a row over Tehran’s atomic ambitions.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Tehran, a few weeks after he said he would respond to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s request and use his good ties with Iran to help resolve its nuclear stand-off with Western powers.
He was expected to meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior officials during a two-day stay.
Western powers gave Iran two weeks from July 19 to respond to their offer to hold off from imposing more U.N. sanctions on the country if it would freeze any expansion of its nuclear work.
That suggested a deadline of Saturday but Iran dismissed the idea of having two weeks to reply. European diplomats in Brussels said they were ready to wait a few more days.
The West accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear warheads under cover of a civilian power program. Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, denies the charge.
“We have not had any discussion (or) agreement of the so-called timeline of two weeks,” Iran’s representative to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told the state Press TV satellite station.
He criticized U.S. policy after governors of the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, on Friday approved an inspections plan for India, an important step towards completing a nuclear trade accord between New Delhi and Washington.
Unlike India, Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“Iran expresses its grave concern regarding the double standards used by the United States,” Soltanieh was quoted as saying by Iran’s ISNA news agency.
He accused the United States of a discriminatory move and of violating the “spirit and letter” of the NPT, while he said Iran faced restrictions and was being “deprived from access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes,” Press TV reported.
Friday’s decision in Vienna removes a barrier to an accord that would allow exports of nuclear fuel and technology to India for civilian use, ending a 34-year ban imposed because India tested atomic bombs and has not signed the NPT.
Some smaller Western and developing nations and disarmament groups fear the decision could weaken allegiance to the NPT.
The United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany offered Iran economic and other incentives in June to coax it into halting uranium enrichment, which can have both civilian and military uses.
The freeze idea was aimed at getting preliminary talks started, though formal negotiations on the incentives package will not start before Iran stops enriching uranium, an activity Tehran says is aimed solely at providing fuel for power plants.
Iran, whose refusal to halt the work has drawn three rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006, has given no indication that it is ready to freeze enrichment now.