TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran said on Sunday it would not suspend uranium enrichment, ruling out the main demand in a package of proposals backed by six nations aimed at resolving its nuclear standoff with the West.
Iran has so far shown no sign it will accept the offer made in June by the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, but Tehran has said it would give its formal response by Tuesday, August 22.
“We are not going to suspend (enrichment). The issue was that everything should come out of negotiations, but suspension of uranium enrichment is not on our agenda,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had said on Wednesday Iran was ready to discuss the issue of suspending uranium enrichment in talks with the West but would seek to explain that Tehran believes any halt would be “illogical.”
Western diplomats say Iran must suspend enrichment, a process that has military and civilian uses, before any talks can start. Any response that falls short of that step is likely to be considered a rejection of the offer in Western capitals.
“As the proposal has had several dimensions, our answer will be multi-dimensional too,” Asefi said.
The package included offering Iran state-of-the-art nuclear technology, easing of some trade restrictions and other incentives.
Iran’s file has already been sent back to the U.N. Security Council because the August 22 deadline was deemed too late to reply. Last month, the council passed a resolution demanding Iran suspend enrichment by August 31 or face possible sanctions.
“The resolution is unacceptable and without legal grounds. The Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept four or five people deciding for the rest of the world,” he said, reiterating Iran’s previous rejection of the Security Council’s decision.
Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge, saying its atomic program is designed to produced electricity to meet soaring demand for power in the world’s fourth largest oil exporter.