Iran's Ahmadinejad scorns EU atomic incentives
TEHRAN, May 17 (Reuters) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today ruled out any idea of halting nuclear fuel work in return for EU incentives, saying the Europeans were offering ''candy for gold''.
Britain, France and Germany, the European Union's three biggest powers, plan to offer Iran a light-water reactor as part of a package to induce Tehran to freeze a uranium enrichment programme that the West suspects has military dimensions.
''They say we want to give Iranians incentives but they think they are dealing with a four-year-old, telling him they will give him candies or walnuts and take gold from him in return,'' Ahmadinejad told a crowd in the central city of Arak.
Arak is the site of a heavy-water nuclear reactor that Iran is building despite opposition from Western countries concerned that the plant's plutonium by-product could be used in warheads.
''Iran will not accept any suspension or freeze (of nuclear work),'' Ahmadinejad said in a speech that was televised live.
The United States and its EU allies want Iran to end nuclear fuel activities as a guarantee that it is not trying to make atomic weapons. Tehran says the fuel is only for power stations.
''We trusted you three years ago and accepted suspension but unfortunately this proved to be a bitter experience in Iranian history. We will not be bitten by the same snake twice,'' Ahmadinejad said of European diplomacy.
Iran suspended uranium enrichment work in 2003 as a goodwill gesture while it tried to forge a diplomatic solution to the stand-off in talks with France, Germany and Britain.
But the diplomacy failed and Iran resumed work on atomic fuel in August last year.
WITHDRAWAL FROM NPT? Ahmadinejad warned that pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme could produce adverse reactions. ''Don't force governments and nations which are signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to pull out of it,'' he said.
The permanent five members of the UN Security Council and Germany have delayed a meeting on Iran scheduled for this week to allow more time to prepare the EU proposal, a British Foreign Office spokesman said. The United States has taken a wary approach. ''The package has not yet been agreed,'' US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told Reuters. ''It is under development and we'll be meeting probably next week in Europe to look at it.
I'll be going over to London for conversations.'' An EU diplomat familiar with the negotiations on Iran said on Tuesday the EU3 and Solana were planning to offer Tehran a European light-water reactor if it suspended enrichment.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Iran to respond constructively to proposals to break the nuclear impasse.
''Now such proposals are being prepared and we will support such an approach, counting on Iran responding constructively. At least, it is our deep conviction that this is the only way to resolve the situation,'' he said, Interfax news agency reported.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he hoped the incentives would pay dividends when diplomacy kicks off again.
''I hope it does resume and that all parties will go to the table with an open mind,'' he told reporters in Tokyo.
Nuclear experts say light-water reactors are harder to use for weapons purposes than heavy-water plants such as the one under construction in Arak.
The EU trio first proposed offering Iran light-water technology in 2005, after two years of negotiations. At the time, the Iranians said the offer lacked specific incentives.
EU diplomats said the new offer would be more specific, partly because they were confident of U.S. support.
But they made clear they saw little prospect that Iran would accept, and were aiming above all to demonstrate to sceptics such as Russia and China that the West was not trying to deprive Iran of civilian nuclear energy.