TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian hard-liners on Sunday called for an end to nuclear negotiations with European powers and said they opposed any deal imposing limitations on Iran's nuclear program.
But Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran (search) will remain committed to talks with Europeans despite a lack of progress.
Asefi said Iran has decided to resume certain nuclear activities it voluntarily suspended in November, but actual uranium enrichment — injecting uranium gas into centrifuges — will remain suspended for now despite hard-line calls for its resumption.
Enriched uranium (search) can be used to produce warheads, but it also can be used to make electricity, which Iranian officials insist is the sole purpose of their nuclear program. Washington accuses Tehran (search) of trying to build nuclear weapons.
Iranian state-run radio quoted Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the hard-line head of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy committee, as saying Iran should end its suspension of uranium enrichment and that continued nuclear talks with European countries would be a waste of time.
"Iran has taken the necessary steps to build confidence and show transparency," Boroujerdi was quoted as saying. "The time has come to end the voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment."
France, Britain and Germany, acting on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, are offering Iran economic incentives in return for guarantees that Tehran will not use its nuclear program to make weapons. Last month's Iranian-European talks yielded no results.
Boroujerdi reportedly said more talks with the "three European powers will have no outcome other than being a waste of time."
"France, Britain and Germany have shown that they don't have the necessary capacity and powers to reach an understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran," he added.
Sunday's hard-line Jomuri-e-Eslami newspaper said details of a deal between Iran and the Europeans allegedly under study was tantamount to "selling Iran's independence."
The daily claimed the deal will let Iran operate 3,000 centrifuges in Natanz in return for strict supervision of the facility and approval of the additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allowing intrusive inspections of Iran's facilities by experts from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.
Asefi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, rejected the reported deal as media speculation.
Asefi said Iran won't restart actual uranium enrichment, but it has decided to resume some nuclear enrichment-related activities at its uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, central Iran.
"Isfahan facility carries out various activities. What activity we are going to resume or at which stage is under study," he told reporters at a press conference. "It will be either producing UF-4 or UF-6. It will be one of them."
UF-4 and UF-6 are the processed form of uranium, the feedstock for enrichment. Iran agreed to suspend actual enrichment at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in 2003 to avoid U.N. Security Council referral for possible sanctions.
To bolster international confidence, Tehran in late 2004 suspended other uranium enrichment-related activities including reprocessing activities at its uranium conversion facility in Isfahan and building centrifuges to enrich uranium.
Natanz and Isfahan house the heart of Iran's nuclear program. The Isfahan conversion facility reprocesses uranium ore concentrate into gas, which is taken to Natanz and fed into centrifuges for enrichment.
Dissatisfied with lack of progress at the talks, Iran's reformist administration of President Mohammad Khatami has come under increasing pressures to resume nuclear work.