Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iran Says It Won't Discuss Its Nuclear 'Rights' At Geneva Meeting


A satellite image made available to AFP on September 26 by Digitalglobe that shows the purported uranium-enrichment facility in Qom, Iran
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran will not discuss any issues related to its nuclear "rights" at the October 1 meeting in Geneva with six world powers, its nuclear energy agency chief has said.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, made clear this included a newly disclosed uranium enrichment plant which has drawn Western condemnation.

His comments seemed certain to disappoint the United States, which has called on Iran to come clean about a nuclear program that it suspects is aimed at making bombs.

Tehran insists it needs the technology to generate power.

"We are not going to discuss anything related to our nuclear rights, but we can discuss about disarmament, we can discuss about nonproliferation and other general issues," Salehi told a news conference.

"The new site is part of our rights and there is no need to discuss it," he said, adding Tehran would not abandon its nuclear activities "even for a second."

The United States and its Western allies have made clear they will focus on Iran's nuclear program at the Geneva meeting. Iran has offered wide-ranging security talks.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he hoped the talks help build "sufficient confidence and trust to get engaged in a process [that] we would like to lead to a resolution to this situation in a political and diplomatic manner."

Salehi was earlier quoted as saying that Iran would soon inform the UN nuclear watchdog of a timetable for inspection of the new plant, its second uranium enrichment facility.

Last week's news of the facility, under construction south of Tehran, added urgency to this week's rare meeting in Switzerland. Iran's missile tests on September 27 and September 28 have further fueled tension with Western powers.

'Heart Of The Mountain'

A White House spokesman on September 28 urged "immediate unfettered access" to the new site.

Iran has rejected Western condemnation of the new facility, saying it is legal and open to inspection by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"The doors of the site are open for inspections but for doing those inspections of the IAEA there are some protocols and in the framework of those protocols we will act," Salehi said.

"And when the time comes the inspections will take is not very far away," he added.

Salehi said the new enrichment plant was located "in the heart" of a mountain, in an area which the elite Revolutionary Guards had wanted to use as an ammunition depot.

"The site, we can call it a small Natanz site, is a way to show that Iran...not even for a second will stop its nuclear activities," Salehi said, referring to its existing underground plant near the central city of Natanz.

He described the new facility as a "contingency plant" in case the Natanz site was threatened by military action.

"Compared to the Natanz facility, this place is relatively small, it is not an industrial site like Natanz," Salehi said.

The United States and European powers have called for greater force behind demands that Iran be transparent over its nuclear program, threatening Iran with "sanctions that bite."

When asked whether Iran was ready to suspend enrichment in exchange for a suspension of international sanctions, Salehi said: "We will never bargain over our sovereign rights...if we have the right to enrichment ... we will not freeze the enrichment."

Iran has so far been hit by three rounds of UN sanctions for defying its demand to suspend its sensitive enrichment activities.