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Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006

Iran's foreign minister tells Japan Tehran has a right to nuke program


Staff writer

Despite diplomatic pressure by Japan, visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki maintained Monday that Tehran has the right to continue its nuclear program, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Mottaki met with Foreign Minister Taro Aso in Tokyo amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts to defuse the nuclear standoff.

According to the official, Aso urged Mottaki to abide by a Feb. 4 resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency in which 27 of 35 member countries urged Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program.

But Mottaki repeated his government's stance that Iran has the right to pursue its nuclear program for "peaceful purposes," the Foreign Minister official said.

"Iran has not sought nuclear weapons," Mottaki was quoted as saying by the official.

During ongoing talks with Iran, Russia has proposed jointly establishing a uranium enrichment venture on the condition that Tehran resumes a moratorium on its domestic enrichment program.

Aso suggested that Russia's proposal "can be a clue" to ending the diplomatic impasse.

Mottaki, however, only said the proposal must both guarantee Iran's rights and quell international concerns, without discussing further details of Russia's proposal, the official said.

Tehran has announced that Iran and Russia have reached a basic agreement, but it reportedly rejected a proposed link between the joint venture and a moratorium on domestic enrichment activities.

"Resuspension (of the enrichment program) is impossible," Mottaki was quoted as saying.

During the two-hour meeting between Mottaki and Aso, 105 minutes were spent on the nuclear issue.

But both sides "argued in a circle" as they stuck to their stances, the official said.

"We have no choice but to request (that Iran) implement the IAEA resolution that strongly urged resuspension" of the domestic enrichment program, Aso was quoted as saying.

"The Japanese people are quite sensitive about nuclear issues since Japan is the only country ever to have been struck with nuclear weapons," he said.



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