Vol. 5 Num 606 Fri. February 10, 2006  
Front Page

Iran dismisses US threat over nukes
China welcomes Tehran's talks with Russia

Iran dismissed as "tough words" the United States' refusal to rule out using military force against the Islamic republic over its controversial nuclear programme.

"We are not afraid of attacks by the United States or by other countries on Iran's nuclear installations because we have nothing to hide, we have no installations to produce nuclear weapons," Iranian Vice President Esfandyar Rahim Mashaee said here after meeting with his Indonesian counterpart.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said this week Washington would not rule out using military force against Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Washington accuses Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon under the cover of a civilian atomic energy programme -- a charge vehemently denied by Tehran.

Mashaee reiterated Thursday that Tehran only possessed "nuclear technology" and did not own nuclear weapons.

"Therefore, what can they attack in Iran? What we have are not nuclear weapons but instead nuclear technology and science. Science cannot be destroyed by Western weapons," Mashaee said in Farsi through an Iranian interpreter.

The Iranian nuclear crisis escalated last week when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to report the Islamic republic to the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear programme.

Iran said on Monday that large-scale uranium enrichment work would begin in "due course" in response to the IAEA decision.

Mashaee described Rumsfeld as "Dracula" and said threats of military action against Iran "are all lies and mere tough words."

He said Tehran has always "clearly" shown that "all of Iran's nuclear actions and activity are for peaceful means."

The top Iranian official has travelled to Indonesia for meetings with Vice President Yusuf Kalla, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and others although the issues being discussed are unclear.

Kalla said Indonesia opposed any military action against Iran based simply on suspicion that Tehran was attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.

Jakarta abstained during last week's vote by IAEA board members in Vienna to report Iran to the UN Security Council.

Senior Iranian officials have warned that a referral to the council would bring "an end to diplomacy" as well as tough international inspections.

Earlier China said it welcomed nuclear talks between Iran and Russia planned for next week to defuse a crisis over Tehran's atomic programme.

"We hope that this Russian invitation to Iran to hold talks on the 16th about participating in an international uranium enrichment centre will help break, or encourage a break, in the current stalemate over the Iranian nuclear issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a regular news conference.

The deputy head of Iran's National Security Council would lead Tehran's delegation to the talks in Moscow next week, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported earlier.