Reuters: Iran would both retaliate and accelerate its drive to master nuclear technology if the United States or Israel attacked its atomic facilities, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator warned on Sunday. Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also told Reuters there was nothing the West could offer Tehran that would persuade it to scrap a nuclear programme which Washington fears may … Reuters
By Paul Hughes and Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN – Iran would both retaliate and accelerate its drive to master nuclear technology if the United States or Israel attacked its atomic facilities, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator warned on Sunday.
Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also told Reuters there was nothing the West could offer Tehran that would persuade it to scrap a nuclear programme which Washington fears may be used to make bombs.
Asked about a possible attack by the United States or Israel, which have both said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable, Rohani said: “If such an attack (against Iran’s atomic facilities) takes place then of course we will retaliate and we will definitely accelerate our activities to complete our (nuclear) fuel cycle.”
Speaking in a rare interview, Rohani said Iran’s ability to produce its own nuclear parts had made it “invulnerable” to attack since it could simply rebuild whatever was destroyed.
“But I do not think the United States itself will take such a risk … They know our capabilities for retaliating against such attacks,” the mid-ranking cleric added.
Iran has ballistic missiles which can hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf and has vowed to retaliate strongly should either country try to repeat Israel’s 1981 successful bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.
NO INCENTIVE BIG ENOUGH
Iran says its nuclear programme will be used to generate electricity, not make bombs. Washington says Tehran is using a civilian nuclear programme as a front for weapons development.
U.S. President George W. Bush has refused to rule out military strikes against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday a U.S. attack was “not on the agenda”.
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney last month warned Israel could in the future try to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israel — believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear armed state — has not said it will attack.
The European Union, led by Britain, Germany and France, is trying to persuade Iran to turn a temporary freeze on sensitive nuclear work, like uranium enrichment, into permanent cessation in return for economic and political incentives.
But Rohani said even the removal of U.S. sanctions on Iran or security guarantees from Washington would not be enough to tempt Tehran to give up its nuclear drive.
“Uranium enrichment is Iran’s right, based on the NPT’s (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s) article four … I do not think anyone in Iran would exchange or swap this right for anything else.”
EU MUST BE MORE SERIOUS
EU diplomats have voiced frustration at Iran’s refusal to give way on what it calls its “red line” — developing a full nuclear fuel cycle — saying Tehran’s stance is “unacceptable”.
Rohani complained the EU talks, due to resume in Geneva this week, have yet to result in anything concrete thus far.
“Our expectations were higher. We believe the Europeans should be more serious,” he said.
Rohani said Iran would review progress in the talks in mid-March before taking any decision on whether to resume uranium enrichment which it froze in November.
“If we witness considerable progress in the talks our patience will increase, if we observe no progress, it will shorten our patience. But, as I have said before, the period of (enrichment) suspension is limited to some months, not a year.”
EU diplomats in Vienna have told Reuters Iran is breaking the spirit of its agreement to freeze enrichment by conducting quality control checks of enrichment centrifuge parts.
But Rohani insisted Iran was sticking to the deal it made with the EU in Paris last November.
“We are fully committed to whatever we have agreed with the Europeans … I can tell you that we have not contradicted the Paris agreement at all,” he said.