Iran on Wednesday stuck by its decision to resume sensitive nuclear fuel cycle work, accusing the European Union of damaging diplomatic efforts to resolve a crisis over its nuclear program.
Pointing the finger: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
The comments came the day after Britain, France and Germany -- who have been trying to convince Iran to limit its nuclear drive -- announced they had cancelled talks scheduled for next week.
Iran has also been emboldened by reports that both UN and US experts had found no evidence of clandestine atomic weapons activities.
"Despite the claims of the Europeans, it was not Iran that violated the Paris Agreement," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told the state news agency IRNA. He was referring to a November 2004 deal under which Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear fuel cycle activities -- which it insists are only aimed at power generation but which could potentially be diverted to making a bomb.
"The Europeans are to blame for unilaterally interpreting and violating the Paris Agreement," Asefi said, repeating Iran's contention that it has the right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to produce its own nuclear fuel."The Europeans ignored Iran's rights."
EU-3 still wa n t talks despite ca n celed meeti n g
Philippe Douste-Blazy with German counterpart Joschka Fischer.
Despite calling off the negotiating meeting, the European powers are still keen to talk to Iran about its sensitive nuclear program, according to French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.
Douste-Blazy said the EU-3, acting on behalf of the European Union, were not ending the discussions.
"We are suspending the negotiations," he told France I n ter radio. "But at the same time, we think it is still possible to talk to them ... There is no reason to close the door on Iran."
"Until the last minute, we hope to be able to talk to them," Douste-Blazy said. "If they don't want to, if they decide to take nuclear (steps) for military reasons, we will know on Sept. 3 because Mr. ElBaradei will give us his report."
IAEA report due o n Sept. 3
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed ElBaradei.
Mohamed ElBaradei and his colleagues at the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called on Iran earlier this month to return to a full suspension of nuclear fuel activities. The IAEA is due to report on the crisis Sept. 3, and a refusal by the Islamic republic to comply could lead to Iran's referral to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
At the end of July, the EU-3 formally asked Iran to abandon uranium enrichment-related work in exchange for a package of trade incentives, access to nuclear fuel produced overseas and help with Tehran's regional security concerns.
Iran reacted by resuming uranium conversion work at a facility at Isfahan on Aug. 8, but has so far held off on enrichment.
"Isfahan has nothing to do with the enrichment," Asefi said. "Activities in Isfahan are not a breach to the agreement."
Reports suggest 'smoki n g gu n ' is a dud
The Washi n gto n Post reported Tuesday that a group of US government experts and other international scientists have determined that traces of bomb-grade uranium found two years ago in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and are not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
"The biggest smoking gun that everyone was waving is now eliminated with these conclusions," the paper quoted a senior official as saying.
The IAEA, according to Western diplomats, has already concluded that enriched uranium particles found in Iran were from smuggled Pakistani equipment.
Iran has long contended that the uranium traces were the result of contaminated equipment bought years ago from Pakistan. But Washington had pointed to the material as evidence that Iran was making bomb-grade ingredients.
The State Department stressed Tuesday that the question about contamination was only "one part of this overall set of questions" about Iran's nuclear program.