- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2006

TEHRAN — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly rejected an appeal from U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei yesterday, saying Iran will not retreat “one iota” on its uranium enrichment.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.N. Security Council would take up measures “to ensure that Iran knows that they really have no choice but to comply.”

Mr. ElBaradei, who heads the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that in four hours of discussions yesterday with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, he put forward the U.N. request for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

But Mr. Larijani indicated that suspension was not an option.

“Such proposals are not very important ones,” he told reporters matter-of-factly while standing next to Mr. ElBaradei at a joint press conference after the talks.

Mr. ElBaradei looked much less optimistic than when he arrived at Tehran airport early yesterday for a one-day visit and said the time was “ripe” for a political solution to the standoff.

The talks came hours after Mr. Ahmadinejad said enrichment was a line in the sand from which the Iranians would not retreat.

“We won’t hold talks with anyone about the right of the Iranian nation [to enrich uranium], and no one has the right to retreat, even one iota,” Mr. Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

“Our answer to those who are angry about Iran achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle is just one phrase. We say: ‘Be angry at us and die of this anger,’ ” Mr. Ahmadinejad said.

Iran says its nuclear work is solely for peaceful, civilian purposes, but the U.S. and a number of its allies think the nation is pursuing a nuclear arsenal.

Mr. ElBaradei said the extent of Iran’s nuclear program was uncertain.

“We have not seen diversion of nuclear material for weapons purposes, but the picture is still hazy and not very clear.”

During the 20 years of Iran’s nuclear program, “lots of activities went unreported,” Mr. ElBaradei said.

Several top U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday that Iran remains years away from obtaining the materials and technology necessary for a nuclear weapon despite its claims of progress announced this week. That assessment is questioned by a number of private analysts.

The U.N. Security Council has given Iran until April 28 to stop all enrichment activity. Iran has rejected the demand and announced Tuesday that, for the first time, it had enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges.

Enriched uranium can be used in nuclear reactors or as the explosive material in an atomic bomb.

Iran’s deputy nuclear chief, Muhammad Saeedi, said Wednesday that Iran intends to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges. Experts say enrichment on that scale would produce enough fissile material to make more than a dozen bombs each year.

Miss Rice indicated that the next step against Iran will be a resolution at the U.N. Security Council seeking punitive or coercive sanctions to stop what the United States says is a covert drive to acquire nuclear weapons.

“When the Security Council reconvenes, there will have to be some consequence for that action and that defiance,” Miss Rice said after a meeting with Canada’s new foreign minister, Peter MacKay. “And we will look at the full range of options available to the Security Council.”

Miss Rice referred to the Security Council’s power to “compel … member states of the U.N. to obey the will of the international system.”

“I’m certain that we’ll look at measures that could be taken to ensure that Iran knows that they really have no choice but to comply,” Miss Rice said.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — met yesterday to discuss the developments in Iran.

Also yesterday, China said it is sending an envoy to Iran and Russia to discuss the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

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