European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said ... Reuters
By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent
NEW YORK - Europe has warned that it will not tolerate an Iran with nuclear weapons after the Islamic republic defied the United Nations by announcing it has begun converting a large amount of raw uranium to prepare it for enrichment, a process that can be used to develop atomic bombs.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said, however, the EU remained committed to offering energy and other cooperation if Tehran abandoned its nuclear ambitions.
Solana spoke to Reuters on Tuesday after a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly that was "frank ... tough and friendly."
Solana sidestepped a question about whether he felt the Iranian nuclear controversy was still open to negotiation.
"I think we have to keep on doing the utmost in talking and dialogue ... If we fail in that direction, we may have to resort
to other mechanisms (such as taking the issue to the U.N. Security Council but) we prefer not to have to," he said.
Iran's announcement on Tuesday came just three days after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, adopted a resolution calling on Iran to suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment.
Iran had promised Britain, France and Germany last October it would freeze all activities related to uranium enrichment.
But Tehran angered the EU's "big three" by reneging on that commitment.
The United States and some other nations believe Tehran intends to use fissile material for weapons. Iran denies that and says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.
The IAEA, which has been probing Iran's nuclear program for two years, has found many previously concealed activities that could be used in weapons production, but no "smoking gun."
Washington believes the resolution passed by the IAEA on Saturday opened the door to tough action by the IAEA board when it meets again in November -- namely, a referral of Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council and possibly economic sanctions.
Solana, in a telephone interview, said he told Kharrazi "in a very clear manner that they had to comply with the (IAEA) report ... and that we will not tolerate that Iran will have nuclear weapons, potentially nuclear weapons."
He described the meeting as "tough and friendly at the same time because we want to maintain a friendly attitude" with Iran.
The IAEA set a fixed period -- the November meeting -- "to clarify the position of Iran (and) we have to use this period to get everybody convinced .. They have to convince us and generate trust that what they are saying is the truth," Solana said.
He said he told Kharrazi "if you don't want to go in the direction of having the capability of nuclear weapons, we can start talking about so many things. The possibilities of dialogue and cooperation between the EU and other countries with Iran are very many," he said.
He declined to say if he thought the United States, which has not had diplomatic relations with Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution, should engage in dialogue.
President George W. Bush has refused to negotiate with Iran on the nuclear issue, but Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has said he would be willing to talk with Tehran about some kind of a deal.