- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

From combined dispatches

VIENNA, Austria — Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told the United Nations yesterday that he had new ideas on how to resolve the nuclear standoff between his country and the West, even as Tehran resumed work at a uranium plant.

“I have new initiatives and proposals which I will present after my government takes office,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, according to a statement released yesterday.

Mr. Ahmadinejad was sworn in last week but has not formed his government.

The statement came as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a U.N. nuclear watchdog, held an emergency meeting to put the brakes on Iran’s latest move to renew its uranium conversion.

President Bush welcomed the step, but he said he remained deeply suspicious about Iran’s nuclear ambitions — which Tehran says are peaceful — and that U.N. sanctions were a “potential consequence” if Iran does not cooperate.

“We’ll work with our friends on steps forward, on ways to deal with the Iranians if they so choose to ignore the demands of the world,” Mr. Bush said in Crawford, Texas.

Tehran on Saturday rejected a European offer of incentives if Iran were to scrap its uranium enrichment program. Mr. Ahmadinejad dismissed the offer as “an insult to the Iranian nation.”

It then resumed work at a less sensitive part of its Isfahan plant, ending an agreed moratorium concluded with the nations of the European Union in November. A senior Iranian delegate to the IAEA meeting in Vienna said U.N. seals were to be removed from other sections of the plant, allowing the work to go a step further.

Diplomats in Vienna said the IAEA was likely to issue a resolution by tomorrow urging Iran to again suspend its nuclear activities, but there was no talk of reporting Tehran to the U.N. Security Council.

But the U.S. envoy to the IAEA was adamant that Tehran be held to task.

“Iran must not be allowed to violate its international commitments and must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons,” said Gregory Schulte.

Mr. Annan’s spokesman confirmed the conversation with the Iranian president. The secretary-general, he said, had urged “restraint and encouraged the continuation of the ongoing process.”

“He hopes both sides will remain engaged in search for an acceptable solution,” the spokesman said Monday. Mr. Annan has been reluctant to be drawn into the dispute between the Iranians and the EU negotiating team as they try to hammer out a solution to the standoff.

Meanwhile, an Iranian dissident who in the past has reported accurately on Iran’s nuclear developments, warned yesterday that Tehran had about 4,000 centrifuges capable of enriching uranium to weapons grade.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, who in 2002 helped uncover Iran’s covert nuclear activity, told the Associated Press that the centrifuges — which he said were not known to the IAEA — were ready to be installed at Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz.

Mr. Jafarzadeh, who runs Strategic Policy Consulting Inc., a Washington think tank, said his information was “very recent” and came from sources within the Tehran government. He is a former member of the opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran, also known as the People’s Mojahedin.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the information was being taken seriously and that the organization would investigate “should we find anything credible contained within it.”

In Tehran, Ali Hafezi, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told AP that Tehran had given the IAEA a full disclosure of its nuclear program, including the number of centrifuges. He would not say how many centrifuges Iran had.

Britain, France and Germany have been working on behalf of the European Union to persuade Iran to drop its uranium enrichment program and related activities in return for support for its civilian nuclear program and other incentives.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said he hoped Iran’s moves would not jeopardize the negotiations.

“I would hope that this is simply a hiccup in the process and not a permanent rupture” in the EU-Iran talks, Mr. ElBaradei told reporters.

• Staff reporter Betsy Pisik in New York contributed to this article.

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