Sat, 12 Mar 2005

From: Reuters

Iran govt wants diplomatic solution to nuclear issue

Agencies, Tehran

Iran wants to resolve its nuclear standoff with the West without provoking a military conflict, Tehran's top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani was quoted as saying on Friday.

But Rohani reiterated that Iran would not give in to demands by Washington and the European Union that it scrap parts of its nuclear program such as uranium enrichment, which can be used to make atom bombs.

Iran, which says it wants nuclear technology to generate electricity, not make bombs, has frozen enrichment while it tries to reach a negotiated settlement with the EU.

"I don't predict that a war would be waged if Iran (resumes) enrichment, but if we try to solve the problem undiplomatically, we will face problems," the semi-official ISNA students news agency quoted Rohani as saying.

"Nuclear technology cannot be negotiated and the period of suspension is short. But I believe we need to be patient inside the country," he said.

"The majority of our people want both to keep nuclear technology and reach a solution through negotiations," he added.

The United States and Europe have agreed on a joint approach in negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, with Washington agreeing to offer modest economic incentives and Europe to take the issue to the UN Security Council if all else fails, according to press reports on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to make the announcement on Friday, The Washington Post said, adding that Rice's deputy Robert Zoellic worked out the details of the agreement at a meeting here Tuesday with British, French and German officials.

"We're in support of what the Europeans are doing, but we had to find a way to demonstrate it," a senior American official told The New York Times about the pending announcement. "This is our way of making clear that we will join the Europeans in giving Iran positive reasons to give up its program."

The Times said the U.S. incentives -- support for Iran's entry into the World Trade Organization and selling Iran spare parts for its ageing commercial airliners -- would go into effect only if Iran agreed to permanently halt uranium enrichment at its nuclear plants.

Britain, Germany and France who have been leading negotiations with Iran on behalf of the EU, would announce their willingness to send Iran's case to the UN Security Council if it reneges on its freeze of sensitive nuclear work.

Parliament speaker Gholamali Haddadadel laid out the Iranian position on Friday:

"Our message to people of the world, Europe and the United States is clear: we say yes to enrichment and no to cessation (of enrichment)," ISNA quoted him as saying.