- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

MOSCOW — Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said yesterday that a Russian proposal to enrich uranium for the Islamic republic needs more work and renewed a threat that Tehran will forge ahead with the technology that can make nuclear arms if the issue is referred to the U.N. Security Council.

Ali Larijani’s comments came amid quickening diplomatic negotiations ahead of a crucial meeting next Thursday of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog that could refer the issue to the 15-nation council, which could impose sanctions.

Mr. Larijani suggested that it would take time to work out details of Russia’s proposal — a Western-backed compromise that could provide more oversight and ease fears that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Iran has welcomed Moscow’s proposal that uranium could be enriched in Russia, then returned to Iran for use in the country’s reactors. But haggling has continued over the specifics.

“Our view of this offer is positive, and we tried to bring the positions of the sides closer,” Mr. Larijani told reporters yesterday, a day after talks with Russian security council chief Igor Ivanov. “This plan can be perfected in the future, during further talks that will be held in February.”

Russian officials have said further talks on the proposal would be held in Russia around Feb. 16 — two weeks after the emergency IAEA board meeting in Vienna, Austria.

Hans Blix, a former IAEA director and chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, said yesterday that Tehran could be offered a package of incentives to wean it away from a nuclear program.

Mr. Blix, chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission in Sweden, said the package could be similar to that offered to North Korea, with a focus on security.

“We promised not to attack North Korea, and we opened diplomatic relations,” Mr. Blix said in an address to the Arms Control Association in Washington. “If it’s done for North Korea, I don’t see why it couldn’t be done for Iran.”

Mr. Larijani said Tehran would welcome talks with European countries. But he reiterated that any attempt to refer Iran to the Security Council would lead the country to move forward with a full-scale uranium-enrichment program.

“If they use political pressure, if our dossier is handed over or opened in an unofficial way by the Security Council, then according to a parliament decision, we are obligated to revoke the fulfillment of all moratoriums,” he said. “In this situation, our actions will not be limited to research. Then we will begin industrial enrichment.”

European countries think they will have enough votes at the IAEA board session next week to haul Iran before the Security Council, but Russia and China, which have close commercial ties with Iran.

• Xin Li in Washington contributed to this article.

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