LONDON (Reuters) – Iran pledged to pursue its disputed atomic program, as Europe’s top diplomat met Tehran’s main nuclear negotiator on Friday in a last effort to avert tougher sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said late on Thursday that nothing would deflect the Islamic Republic from its pursuit of nuclear technology and that it was not committed to allowing inspection of nuclear sites.
“The Iranian nation will never return from the path that they have chosen and they are determined and decisive to continue this path (to obtain nuclear technology),” Mottaki was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
The West says Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at building atom bombs. Iran, a major oil exporter, says efforts to enrich uranium are intended only to produce electricity.
Diplomats and analysts say Iran will see little reason to relent in its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment given that six big powers remain at odds over how soon to resort to more United Nations penalties and how harsh they should be.
Tehran said earlier this week that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili would put forward “new initiatives” to European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana in London on Friday, without giving further details.
But it said there will be no talk about suspension of nuclear fuel work, a key demand of the U.N. Security Council. Without a suspension, Iran will face a third, wider round of sanctions.
Jalili replaced Ali Larijani as chief nuclear negotiator in October. Close to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he is seen by analysts as signaling a hardening of Iran’s position.
“America is angry with Iran over its nuclear program but they know that the cost of attacking Iran will be very high,” Mottaki told a gathering of the Basij religious militia. “America has lost in its nuclear challenge with Iran.”
The five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany agreed earlier that barring “a positive outcome” by November to both EU-Iran talks and a U.N. nuclear watchdog investigation of Iran, they would draft a new resolution imposing wider financial, trade and visa restrictions to increase pressure on Tehran to stop enriching uranium.
But Russia and China, and to a lesser extent Germany, have close commercial ties to Iran and are likely to tailor their new sanctions proposals accordingly, taking a less hawkish approach than that of the United States, Britain and France.
Iran has barred inspections beyond uranium production sites since its case was referred to the U.N. Security Council in February 2006.
The International Atomic Energy Authority see such access under its Additional Protocol with member states as key to verifying there is no covert military nuclear program.
“Iran has no program to discuss the Additional Protocol at its parliament and Iran has no commitment regarding the implementation of the Additional Protocol,” Mottaki said.