Mon, Sep 12, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Iran minister warns UN referral will be a `lose-lose' game


Iran's new foreign minister said yesterday that Tehran would not return to a full suspension of nuclear fuel activities and warned a referral of the issue to the UN Security Council would be a "lose-lose" game.

"There is no question of returning to a new suspension at Isfahan," Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.

"There is no legal basis to send the dossier to the Security Council. This would be a political move. We do not see a serious sign that this will happen," Mottaki said at his first press conference since taking his post.

"It is natural that such an event will have consequences, but right now I do not want to go into what the repercussions would be," he added.

Iran's decision last month to resume uranium conversion work at Isfahan has scuttled talks with Britain, France and Germany aimed at winning guarantees that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.

The country also defied a resolution passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to return to a halt, arguing that making fuel was a right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Iran's position has led to threats from both US and EU leaders to ask the IAEA board of governors, when it meets in Vienna on Sept. 19, to refer Iran to the Security Council.

"Referring the case to the Security Council would be a lose-lose game, and we would prefer that this game does not happen. We see a win-win situation, that is where the EU and the international community have confidence and the Islamic Republic of Iran reaches its legitimate right," he said.

Mottaki said Iran was "in favour of unconditional negotiations with the Europeans, and we will make an effort in this regard."

The so-called EU-3 have been trying to convince Iran to totally abandon nuclear fuel work -- which can be diverted to military purposes -- in exchange for a package of trade, diplomatic, security and technological incentives. Iran says these conditions are unacceptable, and asserts it only wants nuclear technology to produce electricity and reduce its dependence on its own huge oil and gas resources.

Iran's new hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pledged new proposals to resolve the row, and Iran seems determined to widen negotiations beyond the EU-3 to include members of the Non-Aligned Movement -- such as South Africa and Malaysia which are more sympathetic to the Iranian position.

"As for a widening of the negotiations, we have a positive view but this should take place in agreement with other parties," Mottaki said.

"President Ahmadinejad's initiative is being prepared, and it will be released in a few days during the meetings of heads of states at the United Nations in New York," he added.

When asked if Iran would consider talking to arch-enemy the US, he said a "change could be examined but we have not made any such demand."

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