TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran ruled out halting its disputed nuclear work on Monday, saying it would not consider any incentives offered by world powers that violated the Islamic Republic’s rights to atomic technology.
Six world powers agreed at a meeting in London on Friday to offer a new incentives package to coax Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which the West believes Tehran wants to master so that it can build nuclear weapons.
Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, insists its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity and says enrichment is a national right that it will not give up.
“Those incentives that violate the Iranian nation’s right in any form will not be reviewed by the Islamic state,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a news conference.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia — and Germany offered a package to Iran in 2006 that required Iran to halt enrichment. Tehran rejected it.
“Regarding the incentives package ... we believe the path adopted in the past should not be continued. They should act based on realities and international regulations. Talks should be held based on respecting nations’ rights,” Hosseini said.
He said Iran had not formally received any new package.
The incentives offered to Iran in 2006 included civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture, if Tehran suspended enrichment and negotiated with the six powers.
A European diplomat has said the heart of the previous offer — helping Iran develop civil nuclear power — remained. Britain said details would only be revealed to Iran’s government.
Russia, which sent an envoy to Iran last week for discussions that covered the nuclear row, said on Saturday enrichment would have to be suspended during any talks.
“In the past, we have expressed our view about the issue that some Russian officials talked about. There has been no change in our position,” Hosseini said when asked about the comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Russia along with China have both been reluctant to impose penalties on Iran but have, nevertheless, voted in the U.N. Security Council for three rounds of sanctions and demanded Tehran stop enrichment, which has civilian and military uses.
Iran has also discussed with Russia its own package of proposals it says would open the way for talks to resolve the nuclear row and other issues. It has not disclosed details.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday Iran would not give up its rights despite Western pressure but he did not specifically mention nuclear work. “Threatening the Iranian nation will not make it retreat,” he told a rally.
The United States, which has led efforts to isolate Iran, says it wants diplomacy to end the row but U.S. officials have repeatedly said military action has not been ruled out.
The Islamic Republic says Washington is too bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan to open a new front. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Israeli television it would be tough to mount any attack on Iran.
“It would be a very significant challenge for the United States right now to get into a third conflict in that part of the world,” Mullen told Israel’s Channel Ten television.
Jittery since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in 2005 that the Jewish state to be “wiped off the map”, Israeli officials have lobbied for a tougher global stand against Iran.
Additional reporting by Hossein Jaseb in Tehran and Dan Williams in Jerusalem