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Archive for Thursday, May 18, 2006

Iran rejects European incentives on uranium enrichment

May 18, 2006

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— Iran's president mocked a package of incentives to suspend uranium enrichment, saying Wednesday they were like giving up gold for chocolate - defiance that appeared certain to complicate U.S. efforts to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"Do you think you are dealing with a 4-year-old child to whom you can give some walnuts and chocolates and get gold from him?" President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked derisively.

He spoke before a huge crowd in the city of Arak, the site of a heavy-water reactor that is scheduled for completion by early 2009. Such facilities produce plutonium as a byproduct usable in building nuclear weapons.

Signaling the difficulties ahead, a high-level, six-nation meeting on Iran was postponed Wednesday, reflecting differences between the United States, Britain, France and Germany on one side, and the Chinese and Russians on the other.

The London meeting of senior officials from the five permanent Security Council members and Germany was to have been held Friday, but was postponed to Tuesday at the earliest, diplomats told The Associated Press Wednesday.

Only a day earlier, European nations said they might add a light-water reactor to a package of incentives meant to persuade Tehran to permanently give up enrichment.

But Ahmadinejad heaped scorn on the offer in the nationally televised speech Wednesday. "They say they want to offer us incentives," he said. "We tell them: keep the incentives as a gift for yourself. We have no hope of anything good from you."

His defiance was met with shouts of, "We love you Ahmadinejad!" from the crowd.

A light-water reactor is considered less likely to be misused for nuclear proliferation than a heavy-water facility, which produces plutonium waste.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi joined the president in the counterattack, mockingly offering the Europeans trade concessions if the EU dropped its opposition to the nuclear program.

"We are prepared to offer economic incentives to Europe in return for recognizing our right (to enrich uranium)," state radio quoted him as saying.

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