Iran Nuclear NewsIran rejects EU demands it scrap nuclear enrichment

Iran rejects EU demands it scrap nuclear enrichment

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Reuters: Iran, accused by Washington of developing nuclear arms, has rejected European demands to abandon key atomic processes that could be used to make weapons, Iranian and Western diplomats say. On the eve of a third round of talks with Iran in Geneva on Tuesday, France, Britain and Germany are faced with the task of persuading Iran to transform a temporary suspension of its nuclear fuel production programme into a permanent cessation. Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau

VIENNA – Iran, accused by Washington of developing nuclear arms, has rejected European demands to abandon key atomic processes that could be used to make weapons, Iranian and Western diplomats say.

On the eve of a third round of talks with Iran in Geneva on Tuesday, France, Britain and Germany are faced with the task of persuading Iran to transform a temporary suspension of its nuclear fuel production programme into a permanent cessation.

Washington says Iran is using a civilian nuclear energy programme as a front to develop weapons. Iran rejects the charge, insisting it intends to use atomic power generation to satisfy rising electricity demand.

“The Europeans know that cessation (of uranium enrichment) doesn’t work,” an Iranian negotiator told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “We have to reach a solution on the nuclear issue that is acceptable to both sides, not just one side.”

Another Iranian negotiator, Sirus Naseri, told Reuters oil-rich Iran was determined to become an atomic fuel exporter. “We are definitely going to be a player,” he said.

Western diplomats say this week’s closed-door talks will be expert-level “working groups” unlikely to yield a breakthrough.

A senior Iranian cleric told worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran the European Union’s “big three” needed to understand Iran would never give up its nuclear fuel programme.

“We do not have much hope for these negotiations,” Ayatollah Ahmad Janati said in a sermon broadcast on state television.

European diplomats have expressed frustration with Iran’s refusal to give up uranium enrichment, a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel in power plants or weapons.

An internal summary of last month’s talks, obtained in full by Reuters, said the EU3 had told the Iranians their position was “unacceptable” and the programme must be dismantled. This, Europeans diplomats say, is the “objective guarantee” needed to assure the world that Iran is not developing an atomic bomb.

IRAN TESTS CENTRIFUGE PARTS

Tehran’s response was unambiguous, making clear it sees the enrichment suspension as short-lived. Diplomats close to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog said Iran has already begun conducting quality control checks of enrichment centrifuge parts — without which centrifuges cannot be used to produce atomic fuel.

“If they would act in good faith, there would be a complete standstill of every activity that relates to centrifuges,” one diplomat said. This may be a breach of Iran’s pledge to freeze all activities related to uranium enrichment, he added.

Some European diplomats have said the EU initiative can never work without Washington’s involvement because the EU will be unable to offer any incentives to Tehran. Top EU3 firms have told their governments they will not do business in Iran unless they have explicit U.S. approval.

U.S. officials have been publicly supportive of the EU initiative but privately say it will never work, calling instead for U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran. Diplomats say Washington has warned EU and U.S. firms to keep out of Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during a tour of key European capitals, made clear that Washington was reluctant to get invloved in the EU-Iran talks.

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