Tehran to boost nuclear program if file is sent to UN - official

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MUNICH, February 4 (RIA Novosti) - Tehran will accelerate its nuclear program if Iran's nuclear file is referred to the UN Security Council, Iran's deputy foreign minister said Saturday. "The referral of the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the UN will loosen our hands and lead to an acceleration [of the program], which no one needs," Abbas Araghchi said at a security conference in Munich.

The minister said Iran was ready to continue talks, but did not consider its nuclear projects a threat to any country.

At the conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed to Russia's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran in its territory. She said the EU and U.S. approval of this initiative was "a major compromise."

Merkel said referring the Iranian nuclear file to the UN Security Council was not intended as a threat to the Islamic Republic's government. "The UN is a place where such conflicts should be resolved," she said adding that Iran was also a UN member.

The Russian offer to enrich Iranian fuel has been seen as a compromise in the standoff between the Islamic Republic and the West over its nuclear programs after Tehran caused widespread international concern with a recent announcement that it had abandoned a two-year moratorium on uranium enrichment research. The proposal potentially removes the need for Iran to pursue controversial research that could also give it the technology to build nuclear weapons.

Some countries, led by the U.S., suspect Tehran of pursuing a secret weapons program and have been pushing the referral of the Iranian nuclear file to the UN Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic if it is found to have been in breach of its international commitments. Iran has consistently stated that it only wants nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, looks increasingly likely to refer the matter to New York.

However, the Iranian president put a Russian offer to enrich his country's uranium on its territory under a major question mark Thursday, when he questioned the details of the deal.

"We have been made an offer to have uranium enriched outside Iran," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said. "But what will we do if at some point we are not supplied with nuclear fuel?"

The president said the Iranian people would not be deceived.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Ahmadinejad's statement had no foundation.

"From the very beginning, when we put forward the proposal in the context of Iran's talks with the EU trio, we made it clear that Russia should guarantee uninterrupted fuel supplies to Bushehr [a nuclear power plant] and for other peaceful purposes," Lavrov said, referring to the trio of European nations - Germany, France and the United Kingdom - handling the Iranian situation and the $800-million nuclear plant it is building in Iran.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director general, called the Russian initiative a bridge to a fair resolution of the situation.

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