Tehran's 'red line is suspension'

Iran will not freeze uranium enrichment to reach a truce with the United Nations over its nuclear programme, the Islamic republic’s Foreign Minister said Monday.

Manouchehr Mottaki insisted Iran has a legal right to pursue nuclear technology and would spurn a Swiss initiative that calls for a simultaneous freeze of Iranian atomic activities in exchange for a commitment not to impose new UN sanctions.

While Iran could agree to some parts of the proposal, “the red line is suspension”, Mottaki told reporters during a visit to Stockholm. “We are having our legal enrichment, and suspension is not on our agenda.”

Iran argues it has a right to pursue uranium enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, despite international fears it is using the process to make nuclear weapons.

Suspicions bred by nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activities—including questionable black-market acquisitions of equipment and blueprints that appear linked to weapons plans—have led the UN Security Council to impose sanctions because of Tehran’s refusal to shelve its enrichment programme.

Mottaki spoke to reporters after giving a speech on diplomacy and global security at the Swedish National Defence College in which he defended Iran’s “legal and legitimate right” to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

“Iran ... has tried to make its nuclear activities as transparent as possible, but to no avail,” he said.
“Those who possess nuclear technology are trying to preserve their monopoly under false pretexts.”

Before his speech, dozens of protesters staged a loud demonstration outside the defence college, chanting slogans against the Iranian regime. Some protesters threw eggs at the building. Police arrested one demonstrator for assaulting an officer.

Mottaki was also scheduled to meet Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister, Maud Olofsson, and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

The visit angered some exiled Iranians who accused Tehran of human rights violations and said Sweden should break off diplomatic relations.

Media freedom groups in the Scandinavian country urged the Swedish government to use the visit to voice strong protests against restrictions on free speech in Iran.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who was not scheduled to meet Mottaki, said he understood that the Iranian minister’s visit stirred emotions.

“But I still have to defend having contact with countries and regimes that may not share our values,” Reinfeldt told Swedish news agency TT. “How can we ever understand or influence each other if we don’t meet?”—Sapa-AP

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