Iran has vowed to pursue its nuclear fuel work, with protesters saying the country has a right to nuclear energy. Tehran has also reiterated that it would not resume diplomatic ties with the US.
Tehran says Iranian technicians will continue working at Isfahan
In the continuing standoff with the West about its nuclear program, Iran's new atomic negotiator, Ali Larijani, has made it clear that his country would continue its nuclear fuel work. In his first published interview since being named Supreme National Security Council head on Monday, he said that Tehran would, however, negotiate with European diplomats.
"Iran deems it a principle to continue talks and it accepts negotiation as the right manner," Larijani told the Sharq daily. "We can reach a conclusion with a win-win solution defined for both sides."
Despite the apparent willingness to reach a solution about uranium conversion taking place at the Isfahan facility, Larijani said that Iran did not accept the resolution passed last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which urged Iran to suspend all nuclear activities.
The Europeans "must understand that the Iranian government is determined to preserve the nuclear fuel production cycle", said Larijani, who took over from pragmatist Hassan Rowhani.
Demonstrators for nuclear energy
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed ElBaradei (l) has a difficult task in getting Tehran to halt nuclear fuel processing
Tensions between the Islamic republic and the West have been coming to a head for almost a year after Tehran announced last November that it would resume its nuclear program. Iran had suspended atomic activity during months of negotiations with the EU-3 which consists of Britain, France and Germany. On Aug. 8, however, Iranian technicians removed the IAEA seals from the Isfahan facility. There, uranium can be prepared for the process of conversion.
Conversion turns uranium ore or yellowcake into a feed gas for making enriched uranium, which can be the fuel for reactors or the explosive core of atomic bombs. Iran claims it only wants to produce nuclear energy, and that it has the right to do so under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The United States accuses Tehran of covertly developing nuclear weapons, a charge vehemently denied by Iran.
For Iran to produce high-grade uranium, it would have to reopen its uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.
"We insist on Natanz," Larijani said, "but this must go through the channel of negotiations."
The Isfahan facility
At Isfahan on Tuesday, some 500 Iranian demonstrators formed a human chain around the facility, demanding that Iran not only continue the processing there but also that the country break off all talks with the West.
"Let's stop the negotiations," they cried, carrying a banner which read, "Isfahan is only the beginning."
No ties with the US
Iran's heated rhetoric with the West did not stop with the insistence about the country's right to a nuclear energy program. The new government of the ultra-conservative Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also ruled out the resumption of diplomatic ties with the US. Tehran said it would not consider relations with Washington as "long as it fails to respect the greatness and interests of the Iranian people."
US President George W. Bush, joined at right by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has said all options are on the table vis-a-vis Iran
Despite some varying opinions between Washington and Berlin on how to deal with the Iranian crisis, a US State Department representative shrugged off suggestions of a rift between the two.
On Friday, US President George W. Bush had said that the US would not rule out military options against Iran -- a course of action German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder emphatically opposed over the weekend.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack insisted that both the US and Germany agreed that diplomacy would be the first option to persuade the Iranians to shut down nuclear fuel-cycle activities.
"I think that we're working very closely with the German government on the issue of Iran. We're working well on the diplomatic approach," McCormack said.