DUBAI (REUTERS) - Iran criticised on Monday a reported plan by major powers to demand the closure of a uranium enrichment plant in return for an easing of sanctions on Teheran's trade in gold and other precious metals, Iranian media reported.
The Islamic Republic, which says its nuclear programme is peaceful, started building the Fordow plant inside a mountain in secret as early as 2006, to protect it from air strikes.
Last week, Reuters reported world powers were planning to offer to ease sanctions barring trade in gold and other precious metals with Iran in return for steps to shut down Fordow. On Monday Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, suggested the reported offer was unacceptable.
"Lately they have said 'Shut down Fordow, stop (uranium) enrichment, we will allow gold transactions'," MR Mehmanparast said, according to the Mehr news agency. "They want to take away the rights of a nation in exchange for allowing trade in gold."
Western officials said last week the offer to ease sanctions barring gold and other precious metals trade with Iran would be presented at talks between Iran and world powers in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Feb 26. They acknowledged it represented a relatively modest update to proposals that the six major powers made in talks last year.
On Sunday, the head of Iran's parliamentary national security and foreign policy committee, MR Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said Fordow would never be shut down and that proposing its closure was "meant to help the Zionist regime (Israel)".
MR Mehmanparast said talks on the nuclear issue must take account of Iran's sovereign rights.
"We are ready for negotiations, negotiations that have a logical approach which officially recognises our rights completely. Of course steps must be concurrent and of equal weight," he said.