Atul Aneja

Tehran will not accept freezing enrichment

DUBAI: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is ready for negotiations on his country's nuclear programme but would not accept freezing nuclear enrichment ahead of talks.

After holding talks with Mr. Ahmadinejad in Tehran, Mr. Annan said on Sunday, "On the nuclear issue, the President reaffirmed to me Iran's preparedness and commitment to hold negotiations" with Western countries. Mr. Annan, however, added Mr. Ahmadinejad "reiterated that he did not accept suspension before negotiations." He made these remarks during a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

The five Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany have been urging Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and nuclear processing as a precondition for starting a sustained dialogue on its nuclear programme.

Mr. Annan said the Iranian President had pledged to support the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, which anchors the ceasefire in Lebanon. The ceasefire in Lebanon has been premised on the exit of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, the deployment of the Lebanese and U.N. forces there, and measures to prevent the rearming of the Lebanese militant group, Hizbollah.

According to the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA), Mr. Mottaki said the deployment of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) should lead to the exit of Israeli troops.

On the nuclear issue, Mr. Mottaki said the Iranian Government had handed over to Mr. Annan, a copy of Iran's reply to an offer of incentives made by the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. "I advise the opposite nuclear party to announce their opinion towards our answer quickly. We have not asked them for time and there is no longer anything that we should be doing; because everything has been brought in both side's writings and documents," he said.