Iranian Nuclear Weapons Reports `Untrue,' Foreign Minister Mottaki Says

Reports that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons “are untrue” and peaceful uranium enrichment is vital for the country’s energy needs, its foreign minister said before nuclear talks in Europe this week.

World powers are “trying to stop our independence to establish a much-needed power plant,” Manouchehr Mottaki said today in Bahrain. “It is our right to create fuel and to deprive us of that right is scientific apartheid.”

Iran’s nuclear program, which has drawn four sets of United Nations sanctions, is at the center of a dispute between the U.S., its allies and the Persian Gulf country. Iran says it is producing uranium to use as fuel in nuclear reactors to generate electricity while the other countries accuse it of trying to build atomic weapons.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Nov. 30 he is ready for nuclear talks with a European Union-led group that includes the U.S., China, Russia, France, the U.K. and Germany. The parties, which last met more than a year ago, will meet Dec. 6-7 in Geneva, the office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Nov. 12 in Brussels.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the success or failure of talks next week on Iran’s nuclear program is “largely in the hands of the Iranians.” Speaking directly to Mottaki and other Iranian delegates at the opening session of a conference in Bahrain, Clinton said the U.S. hopes Iran comes to the Dec. 6 meeting “as we will -- in good faith and prepared to engage constructively” on nuclear issues.

Technical Difficulties

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report last month that Iran delayed plans to make fuel for a reactor and may have run into technical difficulties.

The number of installed centrifuges that Iran uses to enrich uranium, the heavy metal used to fuel nuclear power plants and construct atomic bombs, fell to 8,426 from 8,856 three months ago, the IAEA said Nov. 23 in a restricted report obtained by Bloomberg News.

Iran supports the creation of an international nuclear fuel bank, Mottaki said today. “Since we are a fuel producer we ask that a branch of the bank is established in Iran,” he said.

State Department cables released by Wikileaks.org this week appear to show that Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, had appealed to the U.S. to attack Iran to stop its nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has said it isn’t sure whether the cables are genuine. The Sunni Muslim kingdom and Iran, which follows Shiite teachings, are regional rivals.

“We must not submit to pressures by outsiders on the region that divide us and create instability and create divisions among friends in the region,” Mottaki said today. “In the region it has been proven that foreign intervention creates unhealthy rivalries between neighbors.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Vivian Salama in Bahrain via Abu Dhabi at vsalama@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg. at at phirschberg@bloomberg.net.

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