Iran rejects EU pitch on nuclear program

Tehran reveals decision as Ahmadinejad is sworn in as president


TEHRAN, Iran - Iran announced yesterday that it would reject a proposal by three European countries aimed at ending the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program.

A Foreign Ministry statement announcing the decision came as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in as Iran's new president.

President Ahmadinejad's new government faces a decision about whether to proceed with its announced plan to continue with a uranium conversion process that Iran suspended a year ago, a step that the West has said could lead to its seeking sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamidreza Assefi, told state radio yesterday that the European proposal, which was drawn up by Britain, France and Germany on behalf of the European Union, was "unacceptable."

"The proposals do not meet Iran's minimum expectations," he said, adding that Iran will send its official rejection to the Europeans within days.

Britain, Germany and France, which represent Europe in their negotiations with Iran, offered a package of economic, technological, political and security incentives to Iran on Thursday in return for Iran's cooperation to ensure its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes.

The United States said Friday that it supported the European proposal.

However, Western diplomats had said that they expected Iran initially to reject the European proposal.

Iran announced last week that it intended to remove seals that the International Atomic Energy Agency had placed on its uranium conversion facilities in Isfahan, where raw uranium can be converted into gas.

Uranium enrichment is part of the process of making nuclear fuel but at higher levels can serve in nuclear weapons.

Iran voluntarily suspended the process last year while it negotiated with the Europeans about its nuclear program.

In his inauguration speech, Ahmadinejad said Iran would not give up its rights, but he did not refer specifically to Iran's nuclear program.

"We want peace and justice for all, and they are the integral part of our foreign policy," he said, addressing senior Iranian officials and foreign ambassadors at the ceremony. "I stress on these two principles so that countries which use the instrument of threat against our nation know that our people will never give up its right to justice.

"I don't know why some countries do not want to understand that the Iranian people will never give in to pressure," he added. "When people see such attitude, resistance grows in them, and achieving a national right becomes an ideal."

European officials had said that if Iran rejected the offer, as they expected, the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. watchdog, would probably meet Tuesday in Vienna, Austria.

Assefi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said such a meeting would be an effort to pressure Iran.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and has said that it wants to master the nuclear cycle so that it will not have to depend on imports of nuclear fuel.

Ahmadinejad, 48, is taking office at a time of tension inside the country as well.

Several bombs went off before the election in June, including one that killed 10 people in the Arab minority region of Ahwaz.

Another bomb exploded outside three Western companies in northern Tehran last week, and a judge was fatally shot on the street.

Ethnic unrest in the western region of Kurdistan has led to the deaths of civilians and security forces.

The government has tried to keep the unrest out of the news, but the foreign news media and Web sites have reported the events.

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