Iran set to reject ultimatum on nuclear programme

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The Independent Online

Iran is showing no signs of backing down after warnings by the Western powers of more sanctions if it rejects a package of incentives to give up sensitive nuclear activities.

On Saturday, Iran again ruled out suspending uranium enrichment despite the offer by six leading powers of help in developing a civilian nuclear programme if it stopped activities the United States and others suspect are designed to make bombs.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said after talks in Tehran that Iran should stop enrichment during negotiations on the offer, a precondition it has repeatedly rejected. "The deadlock is still there," one Iranian political analyst who declined to be named said after Mr Solana's visit.

The incentives package agreed by the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany last month and delivered by Mr Solana to the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is a revised version of one rejected by Iran in 2006.

The parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator, said the assembly would carefully study the offer and "wisely defend the nuclear rights of the nation".

An influential MP, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said halting enrichment was a "red line" and would not be accepted. Mr Solana said he expected a reply soon from Iran, which says its nuclear programme is only for the generation of electricity, but Mr Boroujerdi said Tehran was in no hurry.

"They will never accept the proposal as it is," one Western diplomat said. "As usual they are playing for time."

The US says it wants a diplomatic solution to the standoff but has not ruled out military action as a last resort. "A rejection of this package would lead to further isolation of Iran and would lead to further international sanctions," said a senior US State Department official.

A top British official said before Mr Solana's trip to Tehran: "If they were to reject this initiative, then we would expect there to be further EU sanctions imposed before the end of July."

Tehran argues it has the right under international treaties to master the complete nuclear fuel cycle for civilian purposes – from mining uranium to enriching it. It aims to start test-running its first nuclear power plant at Bushehr this year.

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