Iran has said it would not completely suspend its disputed nuclear activities, but nevertheless voiced confidence it would not face referral to the UN Security Council.
Emotions run high in Iran as UN sanctions become a real possibility
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called on Iran to halt uranium conversion work at its Isfahan facility, and the European Union has set this as a condition for resuming negotiations.
But when asked if Iran would again halt uranium conversion work, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi simply replied: "No."
"The suspension was voluntary and we are not ready to go back on our decision," he told reporters, sticking by Iran's position that it only wants to make reactor fuel and that it has a right to do so as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The refusal to suspend work at Isfahan means Iran is unlikely to resume negotiations with Britain, France and Germany ahead of the next meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board in November.
The so-called EU-3, backed by the United States, would therefore be expected to push for the case to be referred to the Security Council.
Talks between Iran and the EU-3 broke down in August, when Iran rejected a deal that offered trade and other incentives for a full cessation of fuel cycle work, the focus of fears that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons.
Continued defiance earns Iran unlikely support
The EU and Iran faced off over enrichment but no deal has stuck
Iran also ended a freeze on fuel cycle work by resuming uranium conversion -- a precursor to potentially dual-use civilian and military enrichment work -- in defiance of an accord struck with the EU-3 in Paris last November. "There is no judicial or legal reason to send the Iranian dossier to the Security Council," Asefi asserted.
"Many countries have this view," he said, mentioning China and Russia as examples and then drifting into Greek mythology: "You cannot use the threat of the Security Council like the sword of Damocles over the head of Iran."
Last month Beijing abstained from voting on an IAEA resolution that found Iran to be in non-compliance with the NPT, and is eager not to see the tensions with Iran escalate.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said Saturday that Moscow saw no reason to put the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council as sought by Washington.
"We are concentrating on negotiations and dialogue," Asefi said, but acknowledged that full-scale talks with the Europeans remained frozen. "Our ambassadors are in contact in European capital and elsewhere. But these contacts are not like before."
Rafsanjani: talks will resume without conditions
Iran's powerful former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Former president and top regime official Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani also asserted that "Iran is ready to negotiate but not when preconditions are attached."
The United States maintains that Iran simply cannot be trusted with the fuel cycle. "They need to come to a conclusion that will allow them, if they wish, civil nuclear energy, (and) to do that without raising concerns in the international community," US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice told the BBC.
"The Security Council option is there, at a time of our choosing," she said ahead of talks in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Iran, Britain square up over alleged Iraq involvement
Tensions will be high when Iran and the EU-3 eventually come back to the discussion table after events over the weekend.
Relations between Tehran and one third of the European negotiation team were dealt a massive blow on Sunday when the Iranian military authorities accused Britain of complicity in two bomb attacks in Ahvaz, capital of the oil-rich Khuzestan province adjacent to British-occupied southern Iraq.
The blasts late on Saturday night outside a crowded market which killed five people and injured more than 100 was alluded to by Iranian military officials as having “a British accent."
British troops have come under attack and have blamed Iran's influence
British forces in Basra have claimed that recent attacks have been staged by insurgents supported by Iran and the attacks many well have took on the appearance of retaliation in some Iranian eyes.