AFP: Iran on Sunday described a European proposal aimed at ending a nuclear standoff as "unbalanced" and rejected demands that the Islamic republic halt all uranium enrichment activities.
"The European proposal is their preliminary proposition and is not definitive but it is unbalanced," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said. AFP

by Siavosh Ghazi

TEHRAN - Iran on Sunday described a European proposal aimed at ending a nuclear standoff as "unbalanced" and rejected demands that the Islamic republic halt all uranium enrichment activities.

"The European proposal is their preliminary proposition and is not definitive but it is unbalanced," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

Iran will reject "any unlimited suspension" of its uranium enrichment activities as called for in the deal offered to Tehran by the European Three -- Britain, France and Germany, he added.

But Asefi told reporters that the decision to engage in negotiations with the Europeans was the right one, adding: "Today we are on the right path."

The three European states presented Iran with a deal Thursday aimed at avoiding possible UN sanctions under which Tehran would receive valuable nuclear technology if it indefinitely suspended all uranium enrichment activities.

The proposal was seen as a last chance for Iran before the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), decides on November 25 whether Iran is cooperating with the international community.

The United States wants the IAEA, which since February 2003 has been investigating US claims that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons programme, to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday that Washington has seen no sign Iran will comply with international demands and will push next month for the matter to be sent to the Security Council unless Tehran reverses its course.

Tehran has long insisted it is seeking only to generate electricity and on its right to produce enriched uranium, which makes fuel for civilian reactors but can also manufacture the explosive material for atomic bombs.

Hossein Moussavian, a spokesman for the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, also told state television Sunday that uranium enrichment would continue.

"We are not going to count on the Europeans for fuel and we will continue on our path to be independent in this matter," Moussavian said.

Iran's official news agency IRNA said Saturday that talks between Iran and the Europeans would continue next Wednesday.

Conservative members of the Iranian parliament on Saturday called the European proposal unacceptable, saying it denied Iran's right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to master the nuclear fuel cycle.

An influential parliamentary committee earlier this month approved a bill that would force the reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami to resume uranium enrichment in defiance of the IAEA.

But a report published last week by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a military and defence think tank, said that even assuming Iran lifts the suspension on its enrichment programme, "it is still probably a few years away from full scale production of enough enriched uranium for a small nuclear arsenal."

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