New York, Oct 3: A leading Iranian nuclear envoy has suggested that his country could reconsider its uranium enrichment program if it gets cast-iron guarantees of regular international fuel supplies for its nuclear power plants. "We are going to continue as long as there is no legally binding internationally recognized instrument for assurance of supply," said Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, the chief Iranian delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
However, he declined to clarify whether that meant that Iran would halt its enrichment program in return for such international guarantees, suggesting it might have to continue at a diminished level in case the outside supply stops.
According to CBS, Iran has steadfastly rejected international pressure to give up enrichment, a potential source of both nuclear fuel and fissile warhead material.
The United States says the enrichment program is designed to give Iran a nuclear bomb.
Soltanieh said Iran is forced to develop its own enrichment facilities to ensure security of supply for its power plants because it fears international suppliers would face pressure from the United States or others to cut deliveries.
That might change if all 145 members of the UN's atomic energy agency conclude a legally binding agreement to guarantee a constant supply of fuel, Soltanieh told reporters after addressing a think-tank conference.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking at the Asia Society in New York, also held open the door to negotiations.
At the same time, he questioned the good faith the U.S. and its partners.
"Unfortunately, at the moment in the world today ... we don't see that much fair play out there. Mostly what we see is a selective approach and double standards," Mottaki complained.
Getting all members of the Vienna-based nuclear agency to agree on legally binding guarantees would be very difficult, and Soltanieh suggested that Iran might want to keep some enrichment activities even if such an agreement were found.
"We have to have a contingency (safeguard) in case of interruption. This is not an overnight situation that there is a paper today, and tomorrow then they say Iran will stop. No, it's not possible. There is no way," he said. Previous efforts to persuade Iran to stop its enrichment program by offering outside fuel supplies, notably from Russia, have failed.