TEHRAN (AFP) -Iran is battling to head off international action following its refusal to halt its disputed nuclear drive, promising “maximum cooperation” if it manages to avoid the UN Security Council.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi nevertheless warned that any step towards sanctions would meet with tough retaliation from the Islamic republic, which is supected of using an atomic energy drive as a cover for weapons development.
“We have said that we are ready to solve the questions through dialogue. If the IAEA and the Security Council commit for the case to remain at the IAEA, we are ready for maximum cooperation,” Asefi told reporters Sunday.
“But if they take radical measures, we will take measures as a consequence. If their decisions are reasonable, ours will be too. If their decisions are radical, ours will be too,” he warned.
On Friday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Iran had not complied with a Security Council demand to freeze enrichment — which makes civilian reactor fuel but can also be extended to make the explosive core of an atom bomb.
The United States and European powers are now poised to seek a Security Council resolution legally obliging Iran to halt the work.
Unlike the IAEA, the Security Council has enforcement powers and its involvement in the crisis could pave the way for sanctions or even military action.
“The Islamic republic of Iran has no intention to stop or to suspend uranium enrichment,” the deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Mohammad Saidi, also told official media.
Foreign ministers of the five permanent Council members and Germany plan to gather in New York on May 9 to discuss the crisis. Representatives of these countries are also due to meet in Paris Tuesday ahead of the talks.
“The participants of the Paris and New York meetings must understand that Iran’s nuclear programme corresponds to the wishes of the Iranian people and is irreversible,” Saidi said.
China and Russia, which have huge economic interests at stake, are for the time being opposed to the path sought by the Western powers.
Speaking in Chicago on Saturday, the Chinese ambassador to the UN Wang Guangya said it could be “dangerous” to introduce a resolution forcing Iran to halt uranium enrichment.
“If you introduce a resolution not to reinforce the IAEA but to replace it, that is dangerous,” Wang told reporters. “The Iranians are already saying that if this issue is being discussed under Chapter 7, they will drop the NPT like the North Koreans”.
Apparently killing off plans for consultations on the situation in Iraq, Asefi ruled out direct talks with the United States, calling Washington “arrogant” and saying negotiations were not in Iran’s interests.
“The Americans have always had an arrogant position towards Iran, and are trying to reach their objectives through poisonous propaganda,” he said.
“In such a context, negotiating with the United States is not in the interests of the country.”
The United States had declared its willingness to meet with Iranian officials for discussions on Iraq. Iran initially accepted, but last week hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said there was “no need” for talks.
Any direct meeting would have marked a break in a near three-decade pause in open bilateral contacts between US and Iranian officials following the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution.