due to meet senior diplomats from Britain, Germany and France in Vienna Thursday to receive a proposal giving ... Reuters
By Parisa Hafezi and Amir Paivar
TEHRAN - Iran is ready to prove to the world it is not producing atomic weapons provided the West recognizes the Islamic Republic's right to peaceful nuclear technology, President Mohammad Khatami said Wednesday.
Iranian officials are due to meet senior diplomats from Britain, Germany and France in Vienna Thursday to receive a proposal giving Tehran a final chance to halt or indefinitely freeze uranium enrichment plans or face possible U.N. sanctions.
"We are ready to assure the world that we are not pursuing nuclear weapons and I believe the only way is through talks and reaching an understanding," Khatami told reporters.
Iranian officials say they are open to talks but will never give up uranium enrichment -- a process which can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors or material for atom bombs.
"If our rights are recognized and they admit that Iran can have peaceful nuclear technology we will present everything necessary to prove that Iran will not produce an atomic bomb. But we will not give up our rights," Khatami said.
Should Iran reject the EU trio's offer, most European states are expected to back Washington's demand that Iran be reported to the U.N. Security Council when the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) board of governors meet in late November.
Two years after an Iranian exile group revealed Iran had hidden the full extent of its nuclear program from the world, U.N. inspectors have yet to find any clear evidence that the program has military links, as Washington insists.
Iran says it only wants to use nuclear power to generate electricity but it has carried out a number of activities which could also be used to make nuclear weapons.
But concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions have been heightened by recent efforts to upgrade its medium-range ballistic missile the Shahab-3.
Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Iran tested Wednesday an improved Shahab-3 with greater accuracy. Iran says the Shahab-3 can now hit targets up to 1,250 miles away, putting U.S. bases in the Gulf, all of Israel and parts of southern Europe within range.
Khatami said he did not know what the EU trio would present Thursday.
However, U.S. and European officials say it contains an offer to help Iran build a new light-water nuclear power reactor and a guaranteed supply of reactor fuel in return for Tehran's pledge to give up uranium enrichment.
The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Gholamreza Aghazadeh said Iran has submitted its own proposal on how to resolve the dispute to the Europeans.
"We are waiting for their reaction," he said.
Diplomats say Iran has proposed being allowed to continue its nuclear fuel cycle activities such as uranium enrichment under close IAEA supervision. Such reassurances are unlikely to satisfy Washington or the EU trio.
Hossein Mousavian, one of Iran's top nuclear negotiators, told state television Iran was happy to accept U.S. or European offers to supply Iran with reactor fuel.
"But that shouldn't mean that Iran can't have its own fuel cycle," he said. "Iran plans to have seven nuclear power plants and it should at least be able to produce some of the fuel itself in order to be independent."
Mousavian said Iran had calculated it was cheaper to produce reactor fuel domestically than to import it.
He added that detailed talks would not occur at Thursday's meeting in Vienna where the Iranian delegation will simply receive the European proposal and bring it to Iran for study.