- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2006

TEHRAN — Iran yesterday insisted the West will not deprive it of nuclear technology and must drop conditions on negotiations, defying pressure to accept a package of incentives to stop its nuclear activities.

Iranian officials did not respond directly to the offer agreed to Thursday by the permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany that calls on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Details have yet to be formally presented to Tehran.

But Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Europe should “leave out excuse-seeking and illogical conditions and come back to negotiation and cooperation.”

“Iran is ready for any unconditional, just and [nondiscriminatory] negotiations,” he was quoted as saying by state-run television.

Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also struck a defiant tone, vowing “the efforts of some Western countries to deprive us will not bear any fruit.”

The state news agency quoted him as saying opposition to Iran’s nuclear program was not based on a worry over nuclear weapons, but on the fact that the technology would then be open to “all independent countries, especially Islamic countries.”

The united front among the United States, Europe, Russia and China — reached in talks in Vienna, Austria — puts unprecedented pressure on Tehran to accept the deal.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that Tehran must respond quickly. Otherwise, she made clear Iran would face U.N. sanctions.

Details of the offer have not been made public, but diplomats in Vienna said the deal outlines incentives for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and return to the negotiating table — with the United States included in the talks.

In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Snow said Mr. Ahmadinejad was staking out “negotiating positions” by refusing to abandon the pursuit of nuclear technology before seeing a U.S.-backed package of incentives. He said European officials were expected this weekend to give Iran a full presentation of the package.

Uranium enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material to make a bomb. The United States and several European countries think Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program aims only to generate electricity.

Iranian state press was dismissive of Thursday’s gathering in Vienna. “The noisy 5 plus 1 meeting ended without a new proposal for Iran,” state television said.

The United States announced earlier this week that it would enter direct talks with Iran if it agrees to suspend uranium enrichment — the first time it has agreed to such a meeting since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Muhammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran’s nuclear program, was quoted yesterday as ruling out the U.S. condition, calling it “a big insult.”

“Tehran is determined to conclude its peaceful nuclear program,” he said, according to the Iranian Student News Agency. “The Iranian people will not allow us to suspend enrichment. … Accepting the U.S. conditions is almost impossible.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday welcomed the U.S. offer of direct talks with Iran, saying: “This is a very important step, which gives the whole process a new dimension.”

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