TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran vowed Friday to end all voluntary cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog if it is referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Europeans will lose opportunities they currently have in dealing with Iran and Tehran would block snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, state-run television reported.
“In case Iran is referred to the U.N. Security Council …, the government will be obliged to end all of its voluntary cooperation,” the television quoted Mottaki as saying.
The statement reflected a law passed late last year that requires the government to block intrusive inspections of Iran’s facilities if the U.N. nuclear agency refers the Iranian program to the U.N. Security Council.
Iran has been voluntarily allowing the short-notice IAEA inspections since 2003.
The law also requires the Iranian government to resume all nuclear activities that it had stopped voluntarily, foremost among them enriching uranium. Foreign ministers of Germany, Britain and France said Thursday that nuclear talks with Iran had reached a dead end after more than two years of acrimonious negotiations and the issue should be referred to the U.N. Security Council.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also said a “strong message” had to be sent to Tehran but said she was not ready to talk about what action should be taken to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The calls to refer Iran to Security Council were made two days after Iran removed some U.N. seals in the presence of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency from its main uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, central Iran, and resumed research on nuclear fuel.
Iran said it was resuming “merely research” and that “production of nuclear fuel”, which would involve enrichment, “remains suspended.”
But the IAEA said Tehran also planned small-scale enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity or material for nuclear weapons.
“I recommend to European countries that they should separate the issue of research from production of nuclear fuel and not make propaganda over research which is natural and normal but had unjustly been subject to suspension in the past,” Mottaki was quoted as saying.
Mottaki said Iran was prepared for talks with Europeans over uranium enrichment. “If they have any discussion in the stage of nuclear fuel production, we are prepared to continue our talks with the three European countries,” he said.
Mottaki, however, insisted that Iran won’t give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to possess the whole nuclear fuel cycle, from extracting uranium ore to enriching it.
“No one can take this right from the Iranian nation. Regaining this right doesn’t require permission from any country,” the television quoted him as saying.
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday that Tehran was interested in resuming “serious and constructive negotiations” with the Europeans but this time wanted a deadline.
Also Thursday, in an interview with CNN, Larijani said Iran wants to reach agreement with Europe and Russia but “the question of our research is nonnegotiable.”
He also said that an offer to enrich uranium on Russian territory and then ship it back to Iran to fuel nuclear power stations “would be a good basis for negotiations.”
“Iran has the absolute right to enrich,” Larijani said.
“Meanwhile, the other side has proposed that for a while the issue of enrichment could be resolved in a different way. This is worth discussing. I think we can reach an agreement that could suit today’s circumstances.”
Europe’s negotiations with Iran has been aimed at getting Iran to permanently abandon uranium enrichment but Iran says it won’t give up its right under NPT to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.
Iran removed U.N. seals from another nuclear facility, its Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan, central Iran – in August that reprocesses raw uranium into gas.
Iran took that step after Europeans called on Iran to permanently halt its uranium enrichment program. Talks collapsed as a result temporarily. Iran-European Negotiations were resumed in December and more talks had been scheduled later this month.