By Christian Oliver
TEHRAN – Accepting EU incentives that urge Iran to stop making atomic fuel would be like trading candy for gold, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.
Britain, France and Germany, the European Union’s three biggest
powers, plan to offer Iran a light-water reactor as part of a package to induce Tehran to freeze a uranium enrichment programme that the West suspects has military dimensions.
“They say we want to give Iranians incentives but they think they are dealing with a four-year-old, telling him they will give him candies or walnuts and take gold from him in return,” Ahmadinejad told a crowd in the central city of Arak.
Arak is the site of a heavy-water nuclear reactor that Iran is building despite opposition from Western countries concerned that the plant’s plutonium by-product could be used in warheads.
“Iran will not accept any suspension or freeze (of nuclear work),” he added in a speech broadcast live on state televisio.
The EU seeks an end to Iran’s nuclear fuel activities as the only credible guarantee that it is not making atomic weapons. Tehran insists it needs the fuel only for power stations.
“We trusted you three years ago and accepted suspension but unfortunately this proved to be a bitter experience in Iranian history. We will not be bitten by the same snake twice,” Ahmadinejad declared.
Iran suspended uranium enrichment work in 2003 as a goodwill gesture while it tried to forge a diplomatic solution to the stand-off in talks with France, Germany and Britain.
But the diplomacy failed and Iran resumed work on atomic fuel in August last year.
WITHDRAWAL FROM NPT?
Ahmadinejad warned that pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme could produce adverse reactions. “Don’t force governments and nations which are signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to pull out of it,” he said.
Senior diplomats from the EU trio and the office of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana are now expected to discuss their Iran proposal with U.S., Russian and Chinese counterparts in London next week, not on Friday as earlier planned.
“The package has not yet been agreed,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told Reuters. “It is under development and we’ll be meeting probably next week in Europe to look at it. I’ll be going over to London for conversations.”
An EU diplomat familiar with the negotiations on Iran said on Tuesday the EU3 and Solana were planning to offer Tehran a European light-water reactor if it suspended enrichment.
Nuclear experts say light-water reactors are harder to use for weapons purposes than heavy-water plants such as the one under construction in Arak.
The EU trio first proposed offering Iran light-water technology in 2005, after two years of negotiations. At the time, the Iranians said the offer lacked specific incentives.
EU diplomats said the new offer would be more specific, partly because they were confident of full U.S. support.
But they made clear they saw little prospect that Iran would accept, and were aiming above all to demonstrate to sceptics such as Russia and China that the West was not trying to deprive Iran of civilian nuclear energy. — Reuter