Enrichment is like breathing for Iran: Larijani

July 26, 2007 - 0:0

TEHRAN (The Independent& The Guardian)-- Iran has issued its strongest signal to date that it will defy UN demands for a suspension of uranium enrichment threatening to respond to any further sanctions and accusing the Americans of ""running away"" from negotiations to end the crisis over the Iranian nuclear program.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani told The Independent and The Guardian that uranium enrichment was ""like breathing"" for his country, and that Iran would not halt the spinning centrifuges at its main enrichment plant in Natanz, even if the Bush administration offered security guarantees. Mr. Larijani was unusually forthcoming about his negotiations with the European foreign policy envoy, Javier Solana, who has been trying to coax Iran back to the negotiating table while the UN Security Council prepares a new round of economic sanctions. The Europeans have taken the lead in dealing with Iran, which has not had diplomatic relations with Washington since 1979. They want Iran to suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for negotiations. This has been rejected. The Iranians say that the last time they agreed to a voluntary suspension, a three-week suspension ended up lasting two and a half years. They say they will not be caught out again. Tehran has made clear that it will not suspend enrichment as the UN Security Council has demanded, despite two earlier rounds of financial, travel and arms sanctions. A decision on a third round has been put off until September. ""If there is another resolution, we will react with whatever we have,"" the senior official told western journalists. ""So far we have answered legally, limiting (UN) inspections, and reducing cooperation with the IAEA within the legal framework. ""But if there is no legal option left, it is obvious we will be tempted to do illegal things. What is very important to us is our dignity, and we are prepared to act."" Iranian officials made it clear that one option was a formal break with the treaty and a total severance of relations with the IAEA, like North Korea in 2003. However, said the senior official, unlike North Korea Iran had no intention of building a nuclear bomb, even though he said it had now installed enough uranium-enriching centrifuges to make one. Ali Larijani added that if Iran produced a single bomb ""what is it good for? If we attack Israeli with one bomb, America would attack us with thousands of bombs. It's suicide."" Asked whether Iran might reconsider its refusal to suspend enrichment if it were to receive security guarantees from America and a promise that the U.S. would not seek regime change, Mr. Larijani responded: ""We are in no need of U.S. security guarantees. I do not see a relation between these two matters. This example of yours is like saying, 'if the Americans provide you with a security guarantee are you ready to give up breathing?'"" During the 90-minute conversation with six journalists from Britain, France, Germany and the U.S., the soft-spoken nuclear negotiator noted that an Iranian proposal for an international consortium to enrich uranium inside Iran was rejected by the Americans. ""They do not want Iran to have the nuclear technology, which is a strategic mistake because Iran has already acquired this knowledge."" However, Iran is pursuing a strategy of negotiations plus renewed cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency in hopes of reaching a ""technical and legal"" solution before the crisis escalates at the UN in September. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Manuchehr Mottaki, said on Monday that new sanctions would mean ""confrontation"" with Iran, while the senior official said Iran would be ""tempted to do illegal things"". He did not elaborate. Iran believes the proposal for an international consortium is the best option to end the deadlock, but has also proposed the permanent stationing of UN inspectors and even ""smart centrifuges"" which explode when uranium is enriched past a certain percentage. The Iranians believe that they have the upper hand, with the Americans bogged down in Iraq. ""Iran's capability is a reality, sanctions can't work, the military option is unthinkable. The only way is to start negotiations with Iran,"" said Larijani