Iran refuses Russian enrichment offer

Report: Russian official says Iran 'destroying only chance for a compromise.'

russia iran nuclear 298 (photo credit: )
russia iran nuclear 298
(photo credit: )
A senior Russian lawmaker on Sunday harshly criticized Iran for its rejection of Moscow's proposal to host its uranium enrichment program, saying the move has destroyed the only chance for a compromise in the Iranian nuclear standoff, news reports said. Konstantin Kosachev, the head of international affairs committee of the lower house of Russian parliament, warned Tehran that its refusal to continue talks on the Russian offer could "radicalize" a planned discussion of the Iranian nuclear issue at the United Nations Security Council, the Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies reported. Earlier on Sunday, the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported that Iran has built a secret underground nuclear command and control center in Teheran, as preparation for what it sees as future conflicts with the west. According to the report, the secret facility is part of the Iranian plan to move as many as possible of that state's nuclear facilities underground, in an attempt to evade their destruction. The site, the London daily reported, could also be used as a bunker for Iran's leaders, should a military conflict erupt. Hopes for a diplomatic solution suffered a setback Sunday after Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Teheran will no longer consider a proposal to move its uranium enrichment program to Russian territory and is instead considering large- scale uranium enrichment at home. Russia has sought to persuade Iran to move its enrichment program to Russian territory, which would allow closer international monitoring. Iran had insisted that the plan was negotiable and reached basic agreement with Moscow but details were never worked out. "The Russian proposal is not on our agenda any more," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, meanwhile, said Sunday Iran had no intention to use oil as a weapon in its confrontation with the West over its nuclear program, contradicting Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi who said a day earlier that Teheran could use oil as a weapon if the UN Security Council imposed sanctions against it. "The Islamic Republic of Iran is insisting to provide Asia with the oil it needs as a reliable and effective source of energy and will not use oil as a foreign policy instrument," he told a conference on energy and security issues in Teheran Sunday. Iran is the No. 2 producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia. It also has partial control of the narrow Straits of Hormuz, a key route for most of the crude oil shipped from the Persian Gulf nations to world markets. Asefi's comments to reporters effectively mean the Russian proposal is dead after the International Atomic Energy Agency referred Iran to the UN Security Council last week. "Circumstances have changed. We have to wait and see how developments unfold within the (UN Security Council) five veto-holding countries," Asefi said. The United States and its Western allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies any intention to build weapons, saying it only aims to produce energy. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, have been considering proposals to pressure Iran to resolve questions about its nuclear program, including demands that it abandon uranium enrichment. Scientists say Iran would need months to begin large-scale enrichment. The council has the power to impose political and economic sanctions on Iran if it doesn't back down. Asked if Iran will resume large scale uranium enrichment in response to Iran's referral to the Security Council, Asefi said: "Regarding industrial scale uranium enrichment, we are going to wait for two, three days." Asefi was suggesting that Teheran wanted to see what the Security Council decides in a meeting scheduled for later this week before it makes a final decision on the enrichment. Iran, which only has an experimental nuclear research program, has repeatedly warned it will begin large-scale uranium enrichment if the IAEA formally refers it the Security Council for possible sanctions. Last week, it offered what it called a "final proposal" to agree to suspend large-scale enrichment temporarily in return for IAEA recognition of its right to continue research-scale enrichment. The US and its European allies within the IAEA board ignored the Iranian offer, insisting that the time had come for Iran's nuclear dossier to be moved to the Security Council. Last week, Iran, Russia and the Europeans explored plans that essentially would allow Iran small-scale enrichment after re-imposing a freeze for an undefined period to rebuild international trust. But talks broke up without any agreement. Iran has insisted it will never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel. It restarted research-scale uranium enrichment last month, two years after voluntarily freezing the program during talks with Germany, Britain and France. Mottaki, the foreign minister, warned Sunday that Iran may reconsider its nuclear policy if its right under NPT to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel is not respected. "If we reach a point that the existing rules don't meet the right of the Iranian nation, the Islamic Republic of Iran may reconsider policies," he said in a veiled threat that Teheran may consider withdrawing from the NPT. A report last week by IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran was testing centrifuges, which spin uranium gas into enriched uranium, and had plans to begin installation of the first 3,000 centrifuges late this year. Iran will need to install about 60,000 centrifuges for a large-scale enrichment of uranium. Enrichment is a key process that can determine the direction of a nuclear program. Uranium enriched to a low level produces fuel that can be used in a nuclear reactor, while higher enrichment produces the material needed for a warhead.