AP: An 18-month attempt to persuade Iran to mothball uranium enrichment collapsed Friday after a senior European Union envoy failed to dent Tehran’s resolve to expand the technology, despite the threat of new U.N. sanctions. The Associated Press
By GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press Writer
LONDON (AP) – An 18-month attempt to persuade Iran to mothball uranium enrichment collapsed Friday after a senior European Union envoy failed to dent Tehran’s resolve to expand the technology, despite the threat of new U.N. sanctions.
Saeed Jalili, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator, sought to put his talks with the EU’s Javier Solana in a positive light, telling reporters the meeting was “good,” and saying the two men had agreed to meet again next month.
Solana had a different message.
“After five hours of meetings, I expected more, and therefore I am disappointed,” he said. Unlike Jalili, he suggested no new meetings were planned, saying only the two men would talk on the telephone next month and would set up a personal encounter only “if circumstances permit.”
The meeting had been considered a last chance for Iran to give in to pressure from the five permanent U.N. Security Council nations and at least freeze – if not dismantle – its enrichment program before the end of the month, ahead of a new effort by the five nations to find common language on a third set of U.N. sanctions. Those endeavors were to be the focus of a meeting of the five nations plus Germany at a high-level gathering in Paris on Saturday.
Jalili said Iran was not worried about the prospect of new penalties.
“What did they achieve?” he asked about the two sets of sanctions already in place “Nothing. In fact, we made the greatest technology headway and breakthroughs in that specific period of time.”
He was alluding to advances in enrichment technology – Iran has set up and is running 3,000 enriching machines, or centrifuges, in the space of a year. That’s 10 times the amount it had when the Security Council passed its first set of sanctions in December 2006. While Iran insists it has a right to peaceful use of enrichment to generate power, fears that the activity could be misused to create the fissile core of nuclear warheads have resulted in two sets of sanctions in the past 12 months.
U.S. criticism of Iran goes beyond the nuclear issue, with Washington alluding that Tehran foments terrorism in the region, but Jalili was dismissive of the “various noise by the Americans,” adding: “We don’t pay much attention to them.”
The council first imposed sanctions Dec. 23, ordering all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs, and freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to the programs.
In March, the council imposed moderately tougher sanctions, including banning Iranian arms exports and freezing the assets of 28 people and groups involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
Throughout the EU-Iran discussions, which began in June 2006, the permanent Security Council members and Germany had offer have offered technological and political incentives if Iran mothballed the program.
But even before the two men sat down Friday, European officials had given the talks little chance, telling The Associated Press that Iran was unlikely to cave in after months of public pronouncements – the latest in the last few days – that it would not bargain away its rights to enrichment.
Instead, Iran ran had promised to bring a “new proposal” to the table – which a European official familiar with the content of the talks said did not materialize at the London meeting.
The official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential issues, said much of the meeting was taken up by Jalili’s lengthy explanations of Iran’s nuclear stance.
The hard-line Jalili, who replaced moderate Ali Larijani last month, said suspension was “not discussed.”
Solana is to draw up a report on the meeting that will go into the mix in deliberations on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear defiance. The United States, France and Britain are urging quick and tough new sanctions, but pronouncements by Russia and China have suggested that those two permanent Security Council members are skeptical.
Another report – written by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei – is also crucial for Security Council decision-making. That report gave Tehran mixed marks on its cooperation with an agency probe of Iran’s nuclear past while noting that the IAEA’s knowledge of the Islamic Republic’s present atomic activities is actually shrinking.
Still, Iran has tried to exploit that report as giving it a clean bill of nuclear health, asserting that its conclusions should mean an end to Security Council interest in Tehran’s nuclear activities.
At a news conference, Jalili said the ElBaradei report was a “litmus test for certain powers” – an oblique reference to the U.S. and its Western allies who say Iran must not only cooperate more fully with the probe but also suspend enrichment. “Such behavior,” he said, “has isolated them, even among their own people.”
“Their problems with Iran has nothing to do with the nuclear matter,” he said, ascribing Western pressure on his country as a result of unhappiness with the “democratic system … in power in Iran.”
Associated Press Writer David Stringer contributed to this report.