Iran says it doesn't expect new UN sanctions

Teheran cites cooperation with UN nuclear watchdog agency as well as Russian and Chinese support.

Iran said Tuesday it does not expect new UN sanctions in the near future because it is cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog agency on questions about the country's disputed nuclear program and has Russian and Chinese support. Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee said last week's report from the International Atomic Energy Agency that found Teheran was generally truthful about aspects of its nuclear history was "a very positive one" and demonstrated the country's cooperation with the nuclear agency. "I do not think that (in) the near future we are going to witness another resolution in the United Nations Security Council against Iran," he said. "This is my assessment. The reason is that I think more than ever, the whole world today found out that the only and the best way to address the issue of Iranian nuclear peaceful energy program is the agency." The United States, Britain and France, have been pressing for a new sanctions resolution to further pressure a defiant Iran to halt uranium enrichment, which it has refused to do despite numerous council demands. But veto-wielding China and Russia have repeatedly voiced opposition to a third round of sanctions. Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told world leaders at the UN General Assembly in September that Teheran would ignore Security Council demands and sanctions imposed by "arrogant powers" to curb its nuclear program. Instead, he said, Iran had decided to pursue the monitoring of its nuclear program through the IAEA, the UN's legal body dealing with nuclear issues. Khazaee stressed that working with the IAEA "and opening all doors to them" is the way to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, despite "negative statements" by US and European officials. Asked whether he believed Russia and China supported Iran's view about the IAEA and the importance of not moving ahead with a resolution now, Khazaee said: "I think the answer is clear, yes, they support the idea. The Russians and the Chinese, of course, are supporting the cooperation between IAEA and Iran and they think this is the right way to go at it." He warned that if the Security Council seeks a third sanctions resolution it would not only undermine the credibility of the IAEA but "would not encourage" Iran's continued work with the nuclear agency. The Iranian envoy repeated several times that IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on nine occasions in last week's report that the information the agency received from the government was consistent with its findings. "Therefore, there is no reason, or there is no strong excuse in the hand of few countries to refer the case to the Security Council," Khazaee told reporters from several news agencies. "This is my understanding and expectation." But the IAEA said it still could not rule out that Iran had a secret weapons program because of restrictions Teheran placed on its inspectors two years ago. The IAEA also reported that Iran continued to defy the Security Council's demand to suspend uranium enrichment. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Monday he hoped to meet with Iranian nuclear negotiators this week before reporting to the council on Teheran's compliance with its demand to halt enrichment. Khazaee said the meeting between Solana and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili would likely take place next week. While he said "both sides are looking forward to seeing each other," Khazaee downgraded Solana's importance saying his role now is to assist the EU to understand the relationship between Iran and the IAEA. For more than two years, the Iranians have spurned offers carried by Solana of material and technical expertise and cooperation on civil atomic power projects in return for freezing enrichment, a technology that can be used to create uranium fuel for power plants and the fissile material of nuclear warheads. Iran maintains that its enrichment program is purely for peaceful purposes, to produce nuclear energy. But Western nations fear the enrichment activities are a pathway to Teheran's development of nuclear arms. On Sunday, Ahmadinejad told Dow Jones Newswires he would consult with other Arab nations on a proposal to enrich uranium outside the region in a neutral country such as Switzerland. That could allow Iran to develop its nuclear energy program while at the same time removing fears it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. But Khazaee made clear that Iran has no intention of giving up its own enrichment program. "We welcome any proposal to take into consideration," he said when asked about Ahmadinejad's comment. "The important principle is that we do not want to actually create a situation that Iran be dependent on the needed fuel for our ... nuclear generators producing electricity to outside of Iran." Khazaee said Iran did not "have a good experience asking others to give us nuclear fuel" in the past, and it had suspended its enrichment program for two years with no results. Even though the United States is pursuing new sanctions against Iran, Khazaee said Iran will attend new talks on Iraq's security with US and Iraqi officials because improving Iraq's security is important for all countries in the region. "But my personal advice is that the reaction of US negotiators after the negotiation should be more polite and civilized," Khazaee said. Asked whether bringing a new sanctions resolution to the Security Council would discourage Iran from cooperating with the US on Iraq, he said, "we have to wait and see."