Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran will only talk to the UN atomic watchdog agency about its nuclear program, appearing to rule out negotiations with Europe. The tough line came despite increasing pressure, including from Iran's ally Russia, to cooperate. Iran is taking a defiant tone even as the top powers at the United Nations say they are reaching a more unified stance aimed at forcing Teheran to rein in its nuclear program. The United States and European nations on Wednesday pressed Iran to explain purported past experiments linked to atomic arms research. The UN Security Council on Monday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a key process that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or a warhead for a bomb. Iran immediately dismissed the sanctions as "worthless" and said it would continue enrichment. Ahmadinejad said the sanctions proved that the issue of Iran's nuclear program had been politicized and that the Security Council "is an instrument in the hands of some lying powers with excessive demands." The hardline president said Iran - which denies seeking to build nuclear weapons - will only talk to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency over its nuclear program, not the Security Council. "From now on, Iran's nuclear issue is only within the agency within the framework of mutual obligations and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. We won't negotiate with anyone outside the agency," he said, according to the state news agency IRNA. Ahmadinejad did not refer specifically to the call for Iran to hold negotiations with the Europeans, but his comments appeared to rule out any such talks. The proposed European-Iranian negotiations are the carrot in a dual-track approach that the top powers at the UN are taking in a bid to ensure that Iran's nuclear intentions are peaceful and not aimed at producing a weapon. In a statement issued Monday, the US, Russia, China, Britain and France, along with Germany - said they would sweeten a package of economic incentives and political rewards offered in June 2006 if Iran suspends enrichment. They called on EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to meet with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to try to arrange such negotiations. But they warned of even more sanctions if Teheran continued its defiance. Iran insists it has the right to pursue enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Tuesday that Iran should consider the offer "very carefully," pointing to Washington's willingness to join negotiations and resolve its differences with Iran. "I would suggest that greater opportunities are there for Iran if it responds positively to the offers by the six including ... overcoming its problems with the United States of America," he said. The United States and Europe also want Iran to explain intelligence that Washington contends shows Iran was pursuing a weapons program. At a gathering of the IAEA's 35-nation board in Vienna on Wednesday, Gregory L. Schulte, the chief US delegate to the agency, listed intelligence from Washington and its allies that the agency is trying to verify, including:
a document showing how to cast uranium metal into the shape of warheads
explosives experiments that could be used to test detonation devices for a nuclear weapon
schematics of a missile re-entry vehicle that the IAEA judges "is quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device," and
remote explosives testing that appears to include plans for underground detonations facilities, with a separate facility 10 kilometers distant to set off the detonation.
"Iran's leaders say that they do not have a nuclear weapons program," Schulte said. "To give the world confidence that this is true, we call on them to fully disclose past and present activities and suspend those that are not necessary for a civil program but are necessary to build a nuclear weapon."
An EU statement to the board said the 27 EU countries shared IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei's "serious concern" about "the possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear programme."
It expressed concern that Teheran might be hiding some atomic programs, saying that unless Iran restores more sweeping inspection powers for IAEA experts, the agency would not be "in a position to provide credible assurances on the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities."
"Iran's record ... remains abysmal" in trying to dispel suspicions about its nuclear activities, said a statement from Britain, France and Germany read by Simon Smith, Britain's chief IAEA delegate. "As long as Iran's choice remains one of noncooperation, we for our part will remain determined to demonstrate the costs and consequences of that choice."
Iran has dismissed the intelligence as fabricated. An IAEA report in February said that while Iran had cooperating in clearing up many of the past questions over its nuclear program, it had not responded properly to intelligence forwarded by the US and its allies purportedly showing nuclear weapons technology.
Iran insists the report vindicated its nuclear program and left no justification for any Security Council sanctions.