New York Times
By NAZILA FATHI
TEHRAN - Iran on Sunday rejected a proposal by Britain, Germany and France to suspend its uranium enrichment program and urged those countries to offer a "more balanced" proposal.
During a meeting on Thursday in Vienna, the three European countries asked Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program in return for a guarantee to help Iran build a light-water power reactor and to provide a supply of reactor fuel.
"The European proposal is their preliminary proposition and is not definitive, but it is unbalanced," said Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Assefi.
"We need to reach a balanced agreement, one that would eliminate Europeans' worries, if there are any, and one that would recognize our rights within the nonproliferation treaty.''
Mr. Assefi said Iran was negotiating with other countries over its nuclear program. "Each country has its role and power," he said. "We have not limited our negotiations to the three European countries, and we are and will be using diplomacy in the future with other countries."
But he said that negotiations with Britain, Germany and France would continue and that Iran would have its own counterproposal at its next meeting on Wednesday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has told Iran that it must halt its uranium enrichment program before Nov. 25, when the agency would make a determination whether it is cooperating.
The United States says Iran is hiding a nuclear weapon plan and has urged the I.A.E.A., the United Nations' monitoring agency, to send the case to the United Nations Security Council, where Iran could face sanctions.
Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear bombs as well as fuel for nuclear reactors. Iran has contended that it plans to make only fuel.
Mr. Assefi said that the Europeans had not asked for a permanent suspension of enrichment, but that if they did, it would be out of question.
Hossein Moussavian, one of Iran's top negotiators, told state-run television on Sunday that the Europeans' offer was positive but that Iran could not give up its enrichment program.
"The Islamic Republic cannot rely on the fuel the Europeans are offering, because they might withdraw it any time there are differences in relations," he said. "We need to become independent in providing our own fuel."
Western diplomats in Tehran say Iran is confident that imposing sanctions will not be easy even if its case is sent to the Security Council.
"They know that imposing oil and gas sanctions will drive oil prices even higher, which is a matter most countries on the council would want to avoid," a diplomat in Tehran said.
The diplomat pointed to China's and Russia's dependence on Iran's oil and gas, and the likelihood that they would block any attempt in the Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran.
In a brief political analysis, the local Radio Payam said Wednesday that China could face a crisis if it stopped importing oil from Iran.