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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Rejects Calls to End Enrichment

BERLIN -- Iran rejected on Thursday a UN Security Council demand that it halt uranium enrichment to reassure the world that its nuclear program is peaceful.

"We will not, definitely, suspend again the enrichment," said Iran's ambassador to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, Aliasghar Soltaniyeh.

Soltaniyeh spoke as six world powers were meeting in Berlin to discuss their next steps on Iran, with Russia and China seeking assurances that force would not be used.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a "presidential statement" calling on Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment work, which can produce fuel for power plants or atom bombs. It also asked the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna to report in 30 days on Iranian cooperation with agency demands.

The council statement was the product of three weeks of negotiations among the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States. The final text was softened to remove language Moscow and Beijing feared could lead to punitive measures.

Oil held above $66 per barrel, in sight of its $70 record, after the UN statement. "There's got to be a crunch point over Iran," said oil analyst Geoff Pyne. "At the end of the day, Iran is intent on uranium enrichment, and the West won't allow it."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the Berlin talks should show the world speaking with one voice.

"For us, it's about having the greatest possible unity in the international community. A similar meeting in London on Jan. 31 achieved important progress," he told the Handelsblatt business daily.

At the Jan. 31 meeting, the five permanent members agreed to report Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear activities.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, said that involving the council in Iran's nuclear case was "yet another indication of political maneuvering by some Western countries."

Mottaki said the IAEA should be left to handle the dossier and criticized the council's demand for a report from the UN nuclear watchdog on Iranian compliance in 30 days as "nothing short of injustice, double standards and power politics."

He added: "This outcome would make it that much harder for us to actively pursue further initiatives and cooperation."

The Islamic republic says it only wants civilian nuclear power, not atomic bombs, as the West believes.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said neither Moscow nor Beijing would tolerate the use of force against Iran. "Any ideas of resolving the matter by compulsion and force are extremely counterproductive," Interfax quoted him as saying.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters en route to Berlin that the world must keep up pressure on Iran.