TEHRAN, Iran – Iran will endure U.N. economic sanctions rather than give up nuclear fuel development, the vice president said Wednesday ahead of a new round of meetings with European countries trying to rein in its nuclear program.
Iran (search) is vowing to restart its uranium reprocessing activities, an early stage in preparing raw uranium for either power reactor fuel or a nuclear weapon. At the same time, it has agreed to meet with European countries for one last discussion on the issue next month.
Washington believes Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons (search) under cover of a peaceful nuclear program. Iran denies this, saying its nuclear program is geared merely toward generating electricity, not bomb. The European Union has threatened to take Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if it resumes nuclear fuel development.
"We don't want to be subject to sanctions. We don't want to go to the U.N. Security Council," Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh (search) told state-run television. "But if it happens, our leaders and our people will resist as necessary. They will pay the price of sanctions, but I don't believe they will give up these activities."
Aghazadeh, who also heads Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran has decided to restart work at its Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility (search) in central Iran whether or not there is an agreement with the Europeans.
Reprocessing converts raw uranium into gas. In the next stage of the process, the gas is enriched by being fed into centrifuges. Low enriched uranium is used in generating electricity, but it also can be turned into nuclear weapons if enriched further.
Iran suspended all uranium enrichment-related activities six months ago to build international confidence and avoid being referred to the U.N. Security Council.
Tehran says it won't give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (search) to enrich uranium but so far has not said it will restart enrichment, and is prepared to offer strong guarantees that its nuclear program won't be diverted toward nuclear weapons.
Aghazadeh said Iran has clearly told Europeans that it won't relinquish the nuclear technology it has already mastered, and that the technology in Iran's hands was "irreversible."
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani is scheduled to meet foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany on May 23. The three countries, acting on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, want Tehran to abandon its enrichment activities in exchange for economic aid and technical support.
Aghazadeh said the failure of European countries to come up with proposals on what sort of guarantees they wanted led Iran to offer guarantees itself that its nuclear program won't be diverted towards weapons.
"They rejected our proposal during London talks (last month) and refused to give their own proposals. It was then that the government decided that talks under this system are meaningless," he said.