TEHRAN,(Reuters) – Iran dismissed on Monday a U.S. warning that major powers would not wait forever for Tehran to prove it was not developing nuclear bombs, saying any threats deadlines would have no impact on the Islamic Republic.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi, speaking a week before a meeting in Vienna on a proposal to send Iranian uranium abroad for further processing, also reiterated Iran’s refusal to discuss its “nuclear rights” with the six world powers.
“We have announced several times that we have nothing to discuss about that,” he told a news conference in comments translated by Iran’s state Press TV.
“That means continuation of our activities within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the safeguards agreement of the IAEA and enrichment on that basis,” he said, referring to the U.N. nuclear agency watchdog.
Such comments by Qashqavi are likely to fuel Western suspicions that Iran is seeking to win time by engaging for the sake of engaging while further mastering enrichment technologies.
Western diplomats believe Iran is trying to show enough flexibility to keep trade allies Russia and China opposed to painful energy sanctions which could target its energy sector.
The West suspects Iran is seeking to develop nuclear bombs. Tehran says its atom work is aimed at generating electricity.
In London on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “The international community will not wait indefinitely for evidence that Iran is prepared to live up to its international obligations.”
Asked about the remark, Qashqavi said: “If there is a deadline or any kind of threat in their commments, they will not impact us in any way.”
In talks that both sides have described as constructive, Iran agreed at a meeting with the six powers — the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain — in Geneva on Oct. 1 to allow U.N. experts access to a newly disclosed uranium enrichment plant near the city of Qom.
Western diplomats say Iran also agreed in principle to send about 80 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing and return to Tehran to replenish dwindling fuel stocks for a reactor in the capital that produces isotopes for cancer care.
Iranian, Russian, French, U.S. and U.N. nuclear energy agency officials will meet in Vienna on Oct 19 to flesh out conditions, such as amounts of uranium to be sent abroad. “There are 150 hospitals dependent on this reactor … we want to receive this fuel from outside. That’s why we are going to have the meeting and we hope that we’ll reach an agreement,” Qashqavi said. But, in line with comments by a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, he also suggested Iran could provide the fuel itself if there was no agreement on external supply.
Any suggestion that Iran may embark on further refining uranium is likely to add to concern among Western powers.
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for power plants and, if refined much more to about 90 percent, provide material for bombs. Iran needs uranium refined to a purity of 20 percent for its Tehran reactor, from the 3.5 percent it has now.
For world powers, the fuel deal’s payoff would be in diminishing Iran’s stash of low-enriched uranium, enough to fuel one atomic bomb should Tehran choose to enrich it further.
For Iran it would preserve medical isotope production.
Tehran has repeatedly rejected demands to halt enrichment, despite three rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006.
Progress in the Geneva talks was seen as heading off calls for an immediate round of tougher sanctions in the near future.