- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2005

TEHRAN — Iran yesterday rejected the European Union’s offer of incentives in return for a suspension of its nuclear-fuel work, paving the way for a confrontation that could lead to U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The EU said its proposals aimed to allow Iran access to nuclear technology, but block work that could help make an atomic bomb. If Tehran resumed nuclear work, the EU said it would back U.S. calls to refer Iran to the United Nations for sanctions.

“The proposals are unacceptable, and we reject them,” senior Iranian nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian said.

Washington accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop a nuclear arsenal. Tehran denies the charge and says its right to convert and enrich uranium for nuclear-power stations is recognized by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

New Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not specifically mention the nuclear issue as he was sworn in yesterday, but said: “We are logical and respect international rules, but will not give in to those who want to violate our rights. … The Iranian nation cannot be intimidated.”

The EU, represented by Britain, France and Germany, has been working to find a compromise between Iran and the United States since Tehran’s nuclear program was exposed in late 2002 after 18 years of work carried out in secrecy.

“Faced with the first, negative reactions from Iran, I urge its leaders to give themselves the time to examine these proposals with care,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a newspaper interview yesterday.

“We hope the Iranians will study our proposals very closely,” he told Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview to be published today.

The Europeans called a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on Tuesday to warn Iran against restarting its sensitive nuclear work. The IAEA can refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran would give a full answer to the EU proposals over the weekend.

Backing the EU proposals, the United States accepted for the first time on Friday that Iran could develop some civilian nuclear program.

It said it thought the EU offer had enough safeguards to prevent Iran from diverting its civilian work into making bombs.

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