Iran rules out nuke halt despite new offers

By Edmund Bair, Reuter

TEHRAN — Iran said on Monday it would not consider any incentives offered by world powers that violated its right to nuclear technology, ruling out a precondition to halt atomic work the West believes is aimed at making bombs.

Foreign ministers of six world powers agreed at London talks on Friday to offer a new package of incentives to coax Iran to halt uranium enrichment, a process which can make fuel for power plants or material for warheads.

Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, insists its enrichment activity is aimed at generating electricity, and says the program is a national right that it will not give up.

“Those incentives that violate the Iranian nation’s right in any form will not be reviewed by the Islamic state,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a news conference.

France, one of the six powers, said the offer was generous and should not be rejected out of hand.

“They are refusing a text which is extremely generous in my opinion, so I find it a bit premature that they are refusing it without having seen it,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters. He said world power representatives would travel to Tehran “in the coming days” to submit the offer.

A senior European Union diplomat at a meeting on the fraying nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in Geneva said of Iran’s comments: “This looks like an early reaction that may not be particularly serious.”

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia — and Germany offered a package to Iran in 2006 that also required Iran to halt enrichment. Tehran rejected those proposals.

“Regarding the incentives package … we believe the path adopted in the past should not be continued,” Hosseini said. “Talks should be held based on respecting nations’ rights.”

The incentives offered to Iran in 2006 included civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture, if Tehran suspended enrichment and negotiated with the six powers.

A European diplomat has said the heart of the previous offer — helping Iran develop civil nuclear power — remains. Britain said details would be revealed only to the government of Iran.

At the Geneva meeting, U.S. chief delegate Christopher Ford said the offer was Iran’s “best chance” to avoid isolation.

“It is tragic that (Iran’s) government has remained so set on a contrary course of deceit, lawbreaking and confrontation unbefitting to the inheritors of such a proud, ancient culture.”