TEHRAN, Iran — Iran on Saturday rejected Europe’s proposal for ending the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program, calling the package “unacceptable” and not up to Tehran’s “minimum expectations.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the government would send its official rejection to the Europeans later Saturday or Sunday.
“The European proposals are unacceptable … the package is against the spirit of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and against the provisions of the Paris agreement,” he said on state radio. “The proposals do not meet Iran’s minimum expectations.”
The Paris Agreement was reached between Iran and the three European countries negotiating on behalf of the 25-member European Union. Under the deal, signed in November in Paris, Iran agreed to continue suspension of uranium enrichment and all related activities including uranium conversion until negotiations proceed for a political settlement.
Iran has accused Europeans of wasting time, saying continued suspension depended on progress in the talks. Tehran says failure to make progress in talks doesn’t prevent Iran from reopening the Isfahan uranium conversion facility.
Asefi said the primary reason for Iran’s rejection was the European failure to include Tehran’s right to enrich uranium.
“We had already announced that any plan has to recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium,” he said.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in as Iran’s president Saturday, declaring his foreign policy would focus on good relations with the rest of the world but rejecting outside pressure on his government to change course — an apparent reference to the growing international confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program.
Without directly mentioning the controversy, Ahmadinejad said his government respected international norms but said “it would not follow illegal decisions that violate rights of Iranian nation,”
“I don’t know why some countries do not want to understand the fact that the Iranian people do not tolerate force,” Ahmadinejad said.
On Friday, France, Germany and Britain sought to entice Iran into a binding commitment not to build atomic arms by offering to provide fuel and other long-term support to help Iranians generate electricity with nuclear energy.
The proposal did not mention the previous agreement that allowed Iran to enrich uranium. Iran also insists it has a right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The Bush administration backed the offer, which came as a diplomatic effort to persuade North Korea into giving up its atomic weapons program stalled.
The proposal also offered greater economic, political and security cooperation if the Tehran government agreed to the plan.
Iran has long claimed its nuclear program was solely for the peaceful production of electricity, while Washington charged the real aim was to produce arms. The discovery of clandestine aspects of Iran’s program raised worries among other nations and pressure had mounted on Iran.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, announced it would hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to formally warn Iran not to resume uranium enrichment at its facility at Isfahan. The facility converts raw uranium, known as yellow cake, into UF-6, a gas that’s the feedstock for enrichment. The IAEA board could refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for consideration of sanctions.
Asefi said the meeting will have no legal justification. “It’s to bring political pressure on Iran. It’s a psychological war,” he said.
A summary of the EU proposal said the Europeans acknowledged Iran’s right to nuclear energy and promise to help it develop “a safe, economically viable and proliferation-proof civil nuclear power generation and research program.”
The 34-page proposal promised Iran a long-term supply of enriched uranium from other countries, on condition spent fuel is returned. Iran also would be able to buy peaceful nuclear technology, opening the door to such deals as Russia’s $800 million contract to build a reactor in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr and supply fuel.
In return, the Europeans called on Iran to make a “legally binding commitment not to withdraw” from the nuclear treaty, as North Korea did, and to agree to permit surprise inspections by the IAEA and abandon all uranium activities, including conversion, enrichment and reprocessing.
The EU nations also say Iran must “stop construction of its heavy water research reactor at Arak.” Nuclear experts consider heavy water reactors a danger because they use higher-grade plutonium suitable for weapons use. They say the reactor at the Iranian city of Arak can yield enough plutonium from spent fuel to make one atomic bomb a year.