Iran insisted Monday on its right to enrich uranium, expressing reluctance to suspend the key nuclear process as a condition for negotiations over a package of incentives offered by the world powers.
Iran has not responded formally to the incentives that are intended to persuade it to step back from enrichment. But it has said that parts of the package were acceptable, others were not, and the key issue of uranium enrichment - a process that can make fuel for a nuclear power plant or material for an atomic bomb - needed clarification.
At a news conference Monday, Iranian spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham gave no indication of when Iran would reply to the package presented June 6.
When asked if Iran would suspend enrichment for the sake of negotiations - as the world powers, notably the United States, have demanded - Elham avoided a direct answer, but repeated the government line that enrichment was Iran's "obvious right."
"Our country will not negotiate over its obvious rights," he said. "This is a non-negotiable issue."
Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph
reported on Monday that new evidence has come to light indicating that Iran is engaged in an as-yet-undeclared nuclear development project intended for military use.
The project, codenamed Zirzamin 27, has caused concern among nuclear experts in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, who are demanding a full disclosure from Iran.
Ever since 2003, when UN inspectors found enriched uranium at the Teheran-area Lavizan military base, many have suspected Iran of developing a secret military nuclear program. Now, evidence suggests that this is, in fact, the case-that the Iranians have moved the Lavizan project to a new, top-secret site outside Teheran.
Although the exact location of the project is unknown, the name Zirzamin-"basement" in Farsi- implies that the research laboratories involved in the project are underground. IAEA officials are currently studying reports of Zirzamin 27's activities.
One diplomat who works with the IAEA called this "a truly alarming development" and said it "indicates that the Iranians remain committed to developing nuclear weapons, despite their claimsâ€¦that their nuclear ambitions are completely peaceful."