ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Iran”s top nuclear negotiator sought to soothe international unease over his country”s nuclear programme during a visit to Pakistan on Wednesday, days after a U.N. watchdog confirmed Tehran had resumed uranium conversion.
Ali Larijani has been seeking support from non-Western nations for Iran”s plan to pursue what it says is a programme designed for power generation and not atomic weapons.
"Having stated this principle that we are determined to have nuclear technology… We are fully prepared to have any international negotiations, discussions to remove the international concerns," Larijani said after meeting Pakistan”s Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Iran”s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a fresh initiative that will "facilitate work to assure the international community of the exclusively peaceful (nature) of our activities," Larijani told reporters, without expanding on what that initiative contained.
Larijani, appointed last month by Iran”s new president, was due to meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, after his talks with Aziz.
Iran is facing mounting diplomatic pressure after an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report issued last Friday confirmed Tehran had resumed uranium conversion, one of several activities previously suspended under a deal with three European Union nations — France, Britain and Germany.
Larijani said his government was continuing to discuss its nuclear programme with the U.N.”s nuclear watchdog, and hold negotiations with other countries.
But, a senior EU diplomat told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday that the negotiating process, begun with Iran in Paris last November, appeared to be at an end.
He said the next logical step was for the IAEA to report Iran”s nuclear programme to the U.N. Security Council, although discussions on sanctions against Iran were a long way off.
The IAEA board meets in Vienna on September 19.
The United States and the Europeans are trying to reach a broad consensus for reporting the Iranian case to the Security Council, but Russian and Chinese support are in doubt.
Iran could develop bomb-making capability in as little as five years, although the International Institute of Strategic Studies reckons a 15-year time frame was more likely.
The assessment is in line with British estimates, although U.S. intelligence reports have been more conservative, with a study last month putting the date for a bomb at 2015.
Pakistan, the only Islamic country with nuclear weapons, is opposed to any use of force against its western neighbor, and Larijani voiced his appreciation of Islamabad”s stance.
Washington has not ruled out using force to stop Iran”s nuclear programme although its main ally Britain has said such action would be inconceivable.
Pakistan said last March that a now disgraced scientist regarded as the father of its own atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, had supplied Iran with centrifuges that can be used to produce enriched uranium for nuclear power plants or weapons.
Khan is under house arrest after admitting in early 2004 to his role in an international black market in nuclear parts.