TEHERAN - Iran will reject any European proposal for a complete cessation of its work on the nuclear fuel cycle, but might be willing to consider further "confidence-building" measures and extend its suspension of uranium enrichment, a top official told AFP Saturday.
"We would be willing to consider any package that recognises the full right of Iran to enjoy peaceful nuclear technology within the framework of the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)," Hossein Mousavian, a senior national security official involved in the nuclear negotiations, said in an interview.
"But Iran is not prepared for cessation. Any package including a cessation of fuel cycle work would be rejected by Iran," he added.
His comments came after Britain, France and Germany -- who have been spearheading negotiations with Iran -- told the United States they will offer Iran incentives in the coming days to persuade it to halt uranium enrichment.
The NPT allows enrichment to make fuel for nuclear reactors, but there are fears Iran is also seeking the "option" to enrich to weapons-grade levels.
Diplomats say the "EU Three" package would give Iran access to imported nuclear fuel and other perks in return for a total suspension of its fuel cycle work.
But Mousavian said Iran instead expected the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to recognise its right under the NPT to possess the full nuclear fuel cycle.
And if this were the case, he said the Islamic republic was ready to consider extending its suspension of uranium enrichment and discuss new initiatives that would provide long-term guarantees that the process would never be diverted to military purposes.
He said "the fuel cycle is definitely a legitimate right of every member" of the IAEA, and added "cessation would be discrimination against an IAEA member".
"Iran is definitely open to confidence-building measures, full cooperation with the IAEA, full transparency and all confidence-building measures that are required to assure the world that all enrichment activities would always remain peaceful and never be for military purposes," Mousavian said.
"If they have a mistrust of our future enrichment activities and fear its diversion to nuclear weapons, this chapter is open to the IAEA to implement a mechanism that assures it remains peaceful."
The EU Three will offer the package as a November 25 deadline looms for Iran to comply with IAEA demands to suspend enrichment-related activities and come clean about its nuclear ambitions or be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Diplomats say they have been trying to convince Iran to strike a "Libya-style deal", surrendering some of its sensitive nuclear capabilities -- such as the fuel cycle -- in return for diplomatic and trade incentives.
While the talk has been of "suspending" fuel cycle work, the Europeans would eventually like to see Iran give it up altogether. Such an arrangement has also been proposed by US Democratic presidential hopeful, John Kerry.
But Mousavian said Iran was not Libya.
"The Libyan formula would not work with Iran. Iran is a country with thousands of years of history, with huge human resources. With such a nation, you cannot talk and discuss like you do with Libya. And we have the technology already. We have the know-how already," he asserted.
"We are prepared for the continuation of confidence-building measures. But there are two conditions: that the rights of Iran are respected and the contents of the package," he said of the forthcoming EU-Three proposal.
"Is it sellable? Are they serious in implementing the package? Mistrust is bilateral. If the Americans and the Europeans do not trust Iran, we cannot trust them," he added.
"If they want suspension for cessation, we do not want a deal. If they want suspension for confidence building, we are prepared to think about it."
The official, responsible for foreign affairs within Iran's Supreme National Security Council, also reiterated denials that the country was even interested in nuclear weapons.
"We really believe weapons of mass destruction do not bring security for any country. Not Pakistan, India or Israel. They would never be able to use these weapons, so they are just for power prestige. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent for nothing," he said.
Referring to the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, he said "Iran was the first victim of weapons of mass destruction after World War II."
"But we did not retaliate with mass destruction weapons: that is confidence building," he asserted, accusing the Europeans of "double-standards" by pressuring Iran and not Israel, the only state in the Middle East believed to currently possess nuclear arms.