07/26/2007, 00.00
IRAN – ONU
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For Tehran nuclear programme “like breathing”

Iran confirms its intention to go ahead with its uranium enrichment programme, but although taking a hard line on the matter it is still trying to find a deal with UN representatives to stop a new round of sanctions.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, told The Independent newspaper that uranium enrichment programme was "like breathing" for his country, adding that Iran would not halt the spinning centrifuges at its main enrichment plant in Natanz even if the Bush administration offered security guarantees.

Ali Larijani, who reports directly to Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and to Iran's radical President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stressed that there is a complete consensus on the nuclear issue, essential to the country.

But Iran’s intransigence has made life harder for EU Foreign Affairs Chief Javier Solana who wants Iran to end its nuclear programme. Meanwhile the UN Security Council continues elaborating a new series of economic sanctions.

For the European Union suspending the uranium enrichment programme is essential to renew dialogue, but Tehran has repeatedly stated that it is out of the question. Even security guarantees from the United States and pledges that Washington would not engage in regime change have made the Iranians budge.

For Mr Larijani Iran is “in no need of US security guarantees.”

“I do not see a relation between these two matters,” he said. “This example [. . .] is like saying, if the Americans provide you with a security guarantee are you ready to give up breathing.”

By contrast, an Iranian proposal for an international consortium to enrich uranium inside Iran was rejected by the Americans.

“They do not want Iran to have the nuclear technology, which is a strategic mistake because Iran has already acquired this knowledge,” Larijani said.

Despite its hard line stance Iran is still pursuing a strategy of negotiations plus renewed co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in hopes of reaching a "technical and legal" solution before the crisis escalates at the UN in September.

The IAEA said inspectors would return next week to the Arak heavy-water complex, which is under construction—four months after Iran cut off IAEA access there in protest at sanctions.

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