Iran promises new proposals soon for negotiations on nuclear program
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s ultraconservative president promised Wednesday to offer new proposals soon for negotiations with Europe over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program. The Bush administration responded by saying the European diplomatic process “still has legs.”The comments by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggest he wants to launch a new dialogue in hopes of persuading Europe to recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium. They came on a day when Parliament approved most of the president’s hard-line nominees for key Cabinet posts, including the foreign and interior ministers.The makeup of the new Cabinet could mean a retrenching of hard-line positions on key issues such as Iran’s nuclear program, and thus make the country more likely to seek confrontation with the West.Europe has been trying to persuade Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program in return for economic incentives as a way to lessen suspicions its nuclear operations are geared to developing nuclear weapons. Iran, which denies seeking atomic arms, rejected the proposal.Ahmadinejad said he had instructed the Supreme National Security Council, the country’s top security decision-making body, to draw up a new set of proposals over Iran’s uranium enrichment program.”We want to continue talks with all. We will continue dialogue,” he said on state-run television.But he didn’t elaborate if that included the United States. Iran has so far said it doesn’t see any role for Washington to play as long as it continues to maintain what Iran calls a hostile approach.Enrichment is one of the final stages in the nuclear fuel process. It can produce either the fuel needed for to power a nuclear reactor or material for a nuclear bomb. Iran says its program is entirely peaceful, aiming only to produce electricity. The United States accuses Tehran of secretly pursuing a weapons program.Iran suspended enrichment activities and other parts of its nuclear program as a gesture in negotiations last year. But earlier this month, Iran ended the freeze on converting uranium to gas, the final step before the enrichment process.France’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the European Union, represented by France, Germany and Britain, still believes negotiations with Iran are possible, despite the EU’s cancelation of an Aug. 31 meeting because of the resumption of uranium conversion.In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the European diplomatic process “still has legs.””We would encourage the Iranian government to engage with the EU-3 negotiators in a serious and constructive way,” he said. “And we would encourage them to take an offer that is on the table. I think that the EU-3 offer is comprehensive, it’s constructive and it addresses the issue.”Iran claimed vindication Tuesday after tests by the U.N. nuclear agency concluded that traces of highly enriched uranium found on centrifuge parts at two sites in Iran were from imported equipment – rather than any enrichment activities by Iran.The findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency supported Iran’s claims that the material entered the country together with centrifuge parts provided by Pakistan.The discovery of the traces had previously been cited by the United States as evidence Iran was experimenting with producing highly enriched uranium, which is only used in nuclear weapons.But Matthew H. Boland, spokesman for the U.S. mission in Vienna, Austria, dealing with the IAEA, told The Associated Press that the question of where the traces of weapons-grade material had come from was “just one small issue in a whole series of questions that remain unanswered about Iran’s nuclear program.”Among them, he said, were new questions about Iran’s plutonium experiments and its refusal to allow agency officials to revisit Parchin, the site of alleged experiments linked to nuclear weapons.A diplomat close to the IAEA told AP that recent signals from Tehran suggested agreement on another visit might soon be reached. But a senior nuclear expert with diplomatic status who is familiar with Iran’s IAEA dossier said the agency had not yet received formal permission for a new inspection. Both insisted on anonymity as a condition for discussing confidential issues.Another diplomat, a senior envoy representing a country on the 35-nation IAEA board, said agency head Mohamed ElBaradei is expected to present new findings on the nature of Iran’s small-scale experiments with plutonium, following up on worrying conclusions presented earlier this year.Vail – Colorado
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