TEHRAN - A top Iranian regime official has warned Britain, France and Germany that the Islamic republic could harden its stance if they failed to show flexibility in a crucial stage of talks over a nuclear stand-off, press reports said Tuesday.
"If the Europeans are rational, we can make some assurances... but if they put their foot down, then our attitude will change," powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the Hamshahri newspaper.
An Iranian negotiator, Hossein Moussavian, announced Sunday that Iran and the European Union have reached a "preliminary agreement" on easing concerns over the Islamic republic's nuclear programme following two days of crucial negotiations in Paris.
The accord is centered on demands that Iran maintain and widen a suspension of its sensitive uranium enrichment activities or else risk being referred by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
According to European diplomats, the tentative deal still contains several sticking points -- including the length and extent of any halt on fuel cycle work.
"This technology has been achieved by our people by our own means, and others cannot put an end to it," said Rafsanjani, who now heads Iran's top political arbitration body the Expediency Council.
The United States accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and wants the IAEA's board, which meets in Vienna on November 25, to send the matter to New York. Iran says it only wants to generate electricity.
The 25-nation EU, led by Britain, France and Germany, has so far, in talks that started in October, said Iran must indefinitely and fully suspend uranium enrichment activities, but Iran insists its right to enrichment cannot be called into question.
Enriched uranium, depending on its purity, can be used as fuel for a civilian power reactor or as the core of a nuclear weapon. Enrichment for peaceful purposes is allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which Iran is a signatory.
The IAEA is apparently holding up publication of a report on Iran until next week in order to have an eventual EU-Iranian agreement included in the text, a key document for the November 25 meeting, diplomats said.