TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) -An Iranian official invited Western nations Friday to help build nuclear power plants across Iran, reiterating his country’s insistence on pursuing an atomic program as a European official said the two sides had agreed to discuss the standoff next week.
The invitation is a test of the West’s “good will” and could help restore Iran’s trust in the West after subjecting Iranians to intense pressure to suspend nuclear work, Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said.
He commented as a European Union official said negotiators for Iran and the EU would meet Wednesday for the first time since February to assess the possibility of resuming negotiations over Tehran’s suspect nuclear program.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the meeting, gave no details of the planned talks between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran’s chief international negotiator, Ali Larijani.
“It will not be negotiations in themselves. We will examine the possibilities of what can be done,” the official said.
Solana led largely unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment before the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions over Tehran’s defiance of the council’s demand that it halt such work.
Solana negotiates on behalf of the permanent Security Council members — the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China — as well as Germany.
Those nations have offered Iran a package of economic and other incentives, including assistance for a peaceful nuclear power program to produce electricity, but insist Tehran first stop uranium enrichment.
The U.S. and other nations suspect Iran’s government is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies that, saying its only goal is the peaceful use of nuclear reactors to generate electricity.
Iran has started feeding small amounts of uranium gas into centrifuges that can enrich it to weapons-grade level and is already running more than 1,300 of the machines, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency document obtained this week by The Associated Press.
The confidential document — a letter to Iranian officials from a senior IAEA staff member — also protests an Iranian decision to prevent the agency’s U.N. inspectors from visiting the country’s heavy water reactor that, when built, will produce plutonium.
Both enriched uranium and plutonium can be used to construct nuclear warheads.
Aghazadeh told Iran’s official IRNA news agency that the government will never again stop uranium enrichment and vowed it will work around the clock to install even more centrifuges at its underground enrichment plant in Natanz.
Aghazadeh said Iran showed “good will” when it suspended uranium enrichment in 2003 for three years, but lost trust in Western nations after learning they were “seeking a permanent halt to Iran’s nuclear activities” rather than guarantees the program would not be diverted to weapons making.
“Therefore, we won’t repeat this experience,” he said of another suspension.