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Iran’s France envoy says no talks on uranium enrichment

by John Irish, Reuters

March 8, 2012 | 8:32 am

Iranian students hold up their hands as a sign of unity as they form a human chain around the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) to show their support for Iran's nuclear program in Isfahan, 450 km (280 miles) south of Tehran on Nov. 15. Photo by REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Iranian students hold up their hands as a sign of unity as they form a human chain around the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) to show their support for Iran's nuclear program in Isfahan, 450 km (280 miles) south of Tehran on Nov. 15. Photo by REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Iran’s envoy to France said Tehran was optimistic about new talks with world powers on its nuclear program but Iran would not negotiate on its right to enrich uranium.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who would lead future talks with Iran on behalf of six powers, said on Tuesday there would be an attempt to revive the talks - stalled for more than a year - aimed at allaying suspicions that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

“We have to try through dialogue to resolve them (issues) and reach a compromise and in my opinion it’s better not to prejudge these negotiations in advance,” Ali Ahani told Reuters in an interview in Paris.

Ahani said all parties must be realistic in their approach to talks and that the powers should not be worried by Iran’s nuclear activities.

“In this sense recognizing Iran as responsible and a signatory to the non-nuclear proliferation treaty that insists on using these technologies purely for peaceful and civilian means and to continue its enrichment for civilian purposes can help get out of the current situation,” Ahani said.

When asked if discussions on reducing or even cutting uranium enrichment were possible, the former deputy foreign minister replied; “No.”

The six world powers - the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany and Britain - called on Iran on Thursday to let international inspectors visit a military site where the U.N. nuclear agency says development work relevant to nuclear weapons may have taken place.

Ahani, a fluent French speaker who studied in the northern French city of Lille, said Tehran was ready to allow international inspectors access to the site and was working on a text with the IAEA to define the modalities of the visit.

“The decision has already been taken to allow access to this site and others,” he said.

An IAEA report last year revealed a trove of intelligence pointing to research activities in Iran of use in developing the means and technologies needed to assemble nuclear weapons, should it decide to do so.

One salient finding was information that Iran had built a large containment chamber at Parchin in which to conduct high-explosives tests that the IAEA said are “strong indicators of possible weapon development”.

Ahani said the site had already been visited twice before by inspectors and they had okayed it, but that the United States had pressured the watchdog to demand new checks.

Israel and the United States have threatened Iran with military strikes as a last-ditch way to stop it getting nuclear weapons.

Ahani said he did not think Israel would launch air strikes against the Islamic Republic due to the unforeseeable consequences they may have regionally and globally.

“We don’t believe them at all even if we have prepared all scenarios to defend ourselves,” the 59-year old said.

“We don’t think that the Zionist regime (Israel) will take this direction because there will be worse consequences not just for that regime, region, but the world. This sort of military action could have unpredictable and catastrophic consequences,” he said.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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