The Sunday Times: IRAN is to resist international demands to abandon a nuclear programme that has alarmed the West and worsened the risk of instability in the Middle East.
Secret intelligence seen by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, reveals that Iran will not give up production of nuclear material that could be used in weapons. The Sunday Times

Nicholas Rufford

IRAN is to resist international demands to abandon a nuclear programme that has alarmed the West and worsened the risk of instability in the Middle East.

Secret intelligence seen by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, reveals that Iran will not give up production of nuclear material that could be used in weapons.

Under a proposed deal, the country would receive international help to develop a genuinely peaceful nuclear energy capability.

However, at talks due to begin in Vienna on Wednesday, Iran will refuse to put an immediate stop to its uranium enrichment programme.

Its rejection of proposals by France, Germany and Britain will bring it into direct confrontation with Europe and America. Washington has accused Iran of secretly building nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful programme.

The standoff will heighten fears over Iran’s rapid progress towards being the second Islamic country — after neighbouring Pakistan — with a nuclear weapon.

There have been warnings of a new crisis in the Middle East if Iran continues to defy demands by the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations to allow full inspections of its programme. Some observers have predicted Israel will launch pre-emptive strikes against Iran’s nuclear installations.

A senior western diplomat said British negotiators were preparing for Iran to issue “counter-proposals and new demands”.

“They are going to want the benefits (to come early). The Iranians are not going to say ‘no’ to the offer — at least not in a word with two letters in it,” said the envoy. “They are going to come back in a way that makes it look like they want to keep talking but their objective is to spin this out as long as they can.”

The country has also failed to report to the UN its progress in developing a new type of centrifuge for enriching uranium.

Intelligence that Iran will ask for more time and enhanced terms is believed to be based on talks between officials of Iran’s foreign ministry and members of its delegations at the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and at UN headquarters in New York.

“Britain will have little choice but to support demands that Iran is called before the UN Security Council,” said a senior source.