Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi put the offer in a speech to an energy conference in Tehran about six weeks before his government has to show the UN nuclear watchdog that it has ceased enrichment and all related activities. Iran has already rejected the demand of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Associated Press
Iran's foreign minister made Europe an offer Tuesday: recognize our right to enrich uranium and we will guarantee never to produce nuclear bombs.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi put the offer in a speech to an energy conference in Tehran about six weeks before his government has to show the UN nuclear watchdog that it has ceased enrichment and all related activities. Iran has already rejected the demand of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"The time has come for Europe to take a step forward and suggest that our legitimate right for complete use of nuclear energy is recognized (in return for) assurances that our program will not be diverted toward weapons," Kharrazi said.
The United States and the big three European powers are discussing offering Iran a package of economic incentives to abandon enrichment, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The report, sourced to US and European diplomats, said that while Washington had not endorsed incentives for Iran, it was not discouraging Britain, France and Germany from putting together a package that the White House would consider after the presidential elections.
The United States accuses Iran of pursuing a secret program to build nuclear bombs. Iran denies, saying its nuclear program is limited to the production of electricity.
Iran has denounced as "illegal" last month's demand by the International Atomic Energy Agency that it freeze enrichment as well as the reprocessing of uranium and the building of centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium.
Last week Iran said it has converted a few tons of raw uranium into a gas, a key step toward enrichment. It has also risked confrontation with the IAEA by continuing to assemble centrifuges.
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed, does not prohibit uranium enrichment, but Tehran has come under heavy pressure to suspend such activities because of international concern over its nuclear program.
Iran has said it may offer some concessions through "dialogue," but it will not give up its right to enrichment.
In October last year, Iran reached a deal with Europe's three key powers, Britain, Germany and France, in which it agreed to suspend enrichment temporarily and allow unfettered inspection of its facilities by IAEA inspectors. But Tehran rejected the demand that it suspend the related activities and that it cease enrichment permanently.
Meanwhile, six senior UN inspectors, led by IAEA Deputy Director-General Pierre Goldschmidt, arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for talks with Iranian officials, state radio reported. It gave no details.
In a separate report, the radio said about 1,400 university teachers had signed a letter to President Mohammad Khatami, calling on the government to continue enrichment and related activities.
Iran's conservative-dominated parliament is already considering legislation that would mandate the government to resume the actual enrichment of uranium.
Iran's nuclear program has become a matter of national pride. It is one of the few issues on which hard-liners and reformists agree.