Iran dismisses Western demand to close nuclear bunker
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran said on Friday it will never suspend its uranium enrichment programme and sees no reason to close the Fordow underground site, making clear Tehran's red lines in nuclear talks with world powers later this month.
Last month a senior U.S. official said the United States and its allies would demand that Iran halt higher-grade enrichment and immediately close the Fordow facility at talks over Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West.
The New York Times reported that negotiators for Western countries would press Iran to ultimately dismantle the site near the city of Qom, which has been used to expand the higher-grade enrichment the Islamic Republic began just over two years ago.
But Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told Reuters he saw "no justification" for closing Fordow, which he said was under IAEA surveillance.
"When you have a safe place, secure place under IAEA control, then why do you tell me that I should close it?" he said, making clear Iran built the site to better protect its nuclear programme against any Israeli or U.S. attacks.
"Fordow is a safe place. We have spent a lot of money and time to have a safe place," Soltanieh added.
Iran and major powers resumed talks in mid-April in Istanbul after a gap of more than a year - a chance to ease escalating tension and help to avert the threat of a new Middle East war. They are to meet again on May 23 in Baghdad.
The West says Iran's nuclear work is a cover for developing atomic bombs and wants verifiable assurances to the contrary from Tehran - for example, by accepting much more intrusive U.N. nuclear inspections and limiting its enrichment capacity. Continued...