TEHRAN, March 5: Iran's top nuclear official on Saturday warned the United States and Europe of the danger of an oil crisis if Tehran is sent before the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme, but said that a deal with Europe could be near.

"The first to suffer will be Europe and the United States themselves, this would cause problems for the regional energy market, for the European economy and even more so for the United States," Hassan Rowhani, whose country is the second largest oil producer in OPEC, told reporters.

Mr Rowhani, who was speaking at a conference in Tehran on nuclear technology and sustainable development, however expressed optimism that an agreement would be reached with Europe over the development of Iran's nuclear programme.

EU members Britain, France and Germany are trying to convince Iran to dismantle nuclear fuel work - which the United States says is part of a covert atomic weapons development - in return for economic and political rewards.

"If US pressure doesn't prevent it, I think we will manage to reach an agreement with the Europeans because they don't want to deprive the Iranian people of their right and will try to act fairly," Mr Rowhani said.

Britain, France and Germany are seeking "objective guarantees" from Iran.

Rowhani warned the US that it could destabilize the region if it blocks an accord with Europe. If Washington brings the issue before the Security Council, "Iran will retract all the decisions it has made and the confidence-building measures it has taken."

He said Iran's leaders "could be called upon to make new decisions", but did not provide any details on what that would involve. "The stability in the region would become fragile and the United States would be the first to suffer," he said.

In return for a permanent halt to uranium enrichment, the EU is offering Iran a package of incentives covering trade, security and technology.

Mr Rowhani has however refused to put an end to uranium enrichment. "We cannot have and we will not have negotiations with the Europeans if what they want is an end" to uranium enrichment. "We will not continue the talks for one single minute, we have made it very clear to Paris and Berlin," he said.-AFP

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