As the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany prepare to meet in Moscow for talks over Iran's nuclear program Tuesday, Teheran's top envoy to Russia issued a strongly-worded message.
Workers unload a pressurizer, part of the Boushehr nuclear power plant facility in Iran
"One way to avert war is to be prepared for any war," Iranian
Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on the eve of talks in Moscow among six powers on how to address the Iran nuclear problem.
"Iran continues to make a maximum effort so that no war will happen in this region," Ansari said. But he added that "Iran has been, is and will be prepared" for armed conflict if it comes to that. "We hope that the Iranian issue will be resolved by way of negotiation," Interfax and RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.
Fears that Iran could make bombs
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has expressed concerns over Iran's stance
His comments came as officials representing the five permanent UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and Germany prepared to hold talks in Moscow on how to proceed on the Iran nuclear issue.
The United States has said punitive measures such as freezing Iranian assets or imposing travel restrictions on senior officials will be on the agenda of the meeting.
The Security Council on March 29 gave Iran 30 days to suspend uranium enrichment activities. The head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, visited Iran last week and was due to report back to the Security Council before April 29.
US Secretary of State Rice has talked of a Security Council resolution which could sanction force against Iran
The United States has accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program. Last Tuesday, Iran announced it had successfully enriched uranium to the level needed for reactor fuel, reigniting fears that the hardline regime would soon acquire the technical know-how to make bombs. Iran denies this accusation and insists its nuclear program is strictly for energy.
Responding to a question on Tuesday's meeting in Moscow, Ansari said: "We are expecting these six states will give back the IAEA's authority and prestige so that we can cooperate with this agency as we did before."
"Iran is interested in good-faith cooperation with the IAEA and
Iran is trying to ensure that this cooperation is open and transparent so that no more questions remain" about the country's nuclear program, the ambassador was quoted as saying.
He added however that Iran intended to continue developing its nuclear power program in line with IAEA guidelines. "We are working actively with the IAEA and we want to maintain this relationship," Ansari said, according to ITAR-TASS news agency. "We will maintain all of our activities in the nuclear area in the framework of the agency's directives, criteria and regulations," the agency quoted him as saying.
Use of high-tech centrifuges sparks concern
Meanwhile Ali Larijani, the head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top nuclear official vowed on Monday that the clerical regime would press on with uranium enrichment work despite mounting international pressure to freeze its sensitive nuclear activities.
"Why should Iran suspend its research activities?" Larijani,
was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad's comments on P-2 centrifuges have stoked fears in the west
Larijani has also implicitly confirmed comments by hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran was working on using advanced P-2 centrifuges -- devices that can enrich at a much faster rate than the P-1 technology Iran is presently using. When asked about the new work, Larijani replied that Iran "will continue research work within the framework" of the IAEA.
According to The New York Times, Ahmadinejad's revelation of the P-2 work has provoked such surprise and concern among international nuclear inspectors that they are planning to confront Tehran about it this week. Inspectors had long suspected that Iran had been working on the P-2 centrifuge design -- bought on the black market from the renegade Pakistani nuclear engineer Abdul Qadeer Khan -- separately from the activity at its main nuclear facility at Natanz.
European diplomats said a delegation of Iranian officials is due to arrive on Tuesday in Vienna, where the IAEA will press them to address the new enrichment claim, as well as other questions about Iran's program, including a crude bomb design found in the country, the US daily said.
If Iran moved beyond research and actually began running the machines, it could force American intelligence agencies to revise their estimates of how long it would take for Iran to build an atom bomb -- an event they now put somewhere between 2010 and 2015, according to the report.