European negotiators urged Iran’s president-elect Monday to maintain a suspension of uranium enrichment activities, a day after he promised to restart the nation’s controversial nuclear program.
The call came as two inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Iran for talks expected to include reports that Tehran worked secretly with plutonium, a possible component of nuclear bombs.
At a Sunday news conference, hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected by a landslide Friday, repeated Tehran’s contention that the 20-year-old nuclear program was needed for peaceful energy purposes. The U.S. believes that Iran wants to develop atomic bombs.
Iran suspended all uranium enrichment-related activities in November to avoid possible sanctions from the United Nations Security Council, but it said the suspension was temporary.
France, Britain and Germany, which are negotiating on behalf of the European Union, have offered economic incentives in hopes of persuading Iran to permanently halt enrichment. Uranium enriched to low levels has energy uses, whereas highly enriched uranium can be used in bombs.
In Washington, President Bush said the West should send Iran “a focused, concerted, unified message that says the development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable and a process which would enable Iran to develop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.”
Bush spoke after a meeting with visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who said he agreed with him. “We are going to continue being tough and firm on that,” Schroeder said.
France, Britain and Germany said Monday that they strongly hoped Iran would maintain the suspension of enrichment activities and continue negotiations.