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Friday, August 05, 2005

Offer by Europe Would Give Iran Nuclear Future - New York Times

Offer by Europe Would Give Iran Nuclear Future - New York TimesAugust 5, 2005
Offer by Europe Would Give Iran Nuclear Future
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 - In a first test of the new leadership in Iran, European negotiators have prepared a sweeping proposal that raises the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear reactors and fuel, and of achieving a full political and economic relationship with the West, if it ends nuclear activities suspected to be part of a weapons program, Western diplomats said Thursday.

The European offer, drafted with the tacit approval of the Bush administration, is to be transmitted by the end of this weekend as the latest step in a European-American effort to get Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear arms ambitions. That effort has run into repeated difficulties, most recently over Iran's announced intention to resume uranium conversion and enrichment in defiance of European warnings.

Western diplomats who have read the European offer or who know its contents said that it presented a full spectrum of relationships for Iran with the West, from technology sharing to trade preferences to security guarantees, if the Tehran government cooperates on nuclear matters, and also on improving human rights and combating terrorism. They said it was much more detailed and specific than the more general offers floated by the Europeans earlier this year, but they did not describe the offer in full.

Since it seeks a pledge by Iran to end the uranium conversion and enrichment activities that Iran insists are its prerogative under international accords governing nuclear technology, there is considerable doubt that Iran will accept it, at least right away. Iran suspended its nuclear work during the negotiations.

A senior Iranian official, reached by telephone on Thursday, said when told about the contents of the proposal that it seemed to fall far short of what Iran wanted.

"If the proposal asks Iran to continue its suspension indefinitely, let alone renouncing these activities, I think it will be dead on arrival," said the senior official, whose job involves him directly in these matters but who would not be identified by name because he had not seen the document. "I don't think it's prudent for the Europeans to make this presentation, because it shows that they have not moved their position from that of two years ago."

A European official said: "Our proposal pulls together a whole range of different ideas intended to forge a framework for an arrangement between Iran and the rest of the world. There are lots of political, economic and security elements, but the biggest piece is the offer of cooperation on a civilian nuclear program for Iran. We've never said that Iran cannot have one."

Bush administration officials say they cannot comment on the contents of the proposal, except to say that they approved of it. But the administration maintains that it cannot establish a normal relationship with Iran unless it changes its conduct, not simply in the nuclear sphere but in what the United States and the Europeans say is support of terrorism, particularly against Israel, and its interference in Iraq.

Details of the package were disclosed by diplomats who insisted they not be identified even by country because the package is supposed to be secret and its terms have not yet been formally presented to Iran.

The proposal would bar Iran from operating a "closed" nuclear fuel cycle, in which it would effectively control every aspect of fuel production and disposal. Instead, according to the diplomats who have seen it, the proposal suggests that Iran be allowed to acquire fuel and then transfer the used fuel to another country for disposal, precluding Iran from using it for weapons.

More specifically, Iran would be obliged to continue its current suspension of the conversion of raw uranium into a gas that can be enriched for use as fuel with the use of centrifuges that international inspectors have found in Iran in several places. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has said that it is investigating Iran's failure to disclose many elements of its program, would continue to play its inspection role to ensure compliance with the agreement.

While taking a hard line on uranium conversion and enrichment, the diplomats said, the proposal contains a face-saving provision for Iran conceding its right to certain activities it is being asked to give up. The wording, according to one diplomat, says that nothing in an agreement with Iran affects "the inalienable rights of all the parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

In some respects, Iran is not likely to be surprised by the basic outlines of the European proposal. France, Germany and Britain - the partners along with the European Union in the negotiations - have held firm to this broad position of barring uranium conversion and enrichment under pressure from Washington.

The view shared in Europe and Washington is that while Iran may have the right to enrich uranium as a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty, which governs peaceful nuclear technology in nearly all countries with civilian nuclear programs, Iran has forfeited that right because it has been found over the years to be engaging in clandestine activities.

Iran's anger that it is being asked to give up activities allowed to other countries is at the heart of its repeated announcement that, like it or not, it will resume such work when it chooses. Indeed, Iran announced last week that it was renouncing its pledge of last year to suspend these uranium activities.

On the other hand, the Tehran government has not unilaterally resumed uranium conversion or enrichment. Instead, it has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to go to its facilities and break the inspectors' seals on equipment that would be used for these activities, and also to install monitors and sensors for the purpose of observing them.

Iran's announcement was made in the days leading up to the inauguration Saturday of the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who until recently was the mayor of Tehran.

It is widely believed in the West that Iran decided to invite the inspectors before Mr. Ahmadinejad took office in order not to taint him with the move or force him to make one of his first decisions in defiance of the wishes of the Europeans.

Several diplomats said that it was shrewd of Iran, in political terms, to invite the International Atomic Energy Agency to its nuclear facilities to break the seals and install monitors and sensors. That way, these diplomats said, Iran can claim to be showing the world that, while it is proceeding with uranium processing, not a single gram of fuel will go to a weapons program.

The international agency, meanwhile, has been taking its time before installing the sensors and monitors, to give the Europeans time to refine their proposal. The Europeans have rushed the proposal to meet a deadline of this week and have begun hinting that if Iran rejects it outright, or forces the seals to be broken, some countries may call for the agency's board to meet next week to address the matter.

That Iranian tactic, said several Western diplomats, seems clearly intended to woo wavering board members of the agency - notably Russia, China and several other countries with similar enrichment programs - that it is acting in good faith and doing what other countries are allowed to do. They expressed concern about getting enough votes on the board to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.

1 comment:

  1. from kirazalan.net

    Iran has declared that it will resume nuclear conversion at Esfahan within one or two days. Europe has requested an emergency meeting of the IAEA to pressure Iran not to resume nuclear fuel cycle work. Israel is pressuring Ukraine to demand from Iran the 12 nuclear-capable X-55 cruise missiles that were smuggled there four years ago.

    All of this is happening as the talks with North Korea are drawing to a crucial, and so far unpredictable, end.

    So is World War III imminent? Hardly.

    Over reaction is exactly what these unlikely allies are fishing for. The coincidence of declared threats by both countries is a bit too convenient. By cranking the nuclear threat pressure simultaneously, both North Korea and Iran are hoping to walk away with the most handouts.

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