Reuters: An Iranian overture to defuse a standoff with world powers over its uranium enrichment programme will not be addressed unless Tehran suspends sensitive nuclear activity first, Western diplomats are signaling.
By Mark Heinrich
VIENNA (Reuters) – An Iranian overture to defuse a standoff with world powers over its uranium enrichment programme will not be addressed unless Tehran suspends sensitive nuclear activity first, Western diplomats are signaling.
Iran this week attempted to skirt concern over its nuclear agenda by proposing negotiations on a broad range of world problems, while underlining that the Islamic Republic did not regard its enrichment campaign as one of them.
Countering an updated offer from six powers of trade incentives to suspend the programme, it urged cooperation on "common security threats" like terrorism and again called for a multinational enrichment consortium on its soil, which the West has ruled out.
"We will be prepared to discuss Iran's proposals in detail once the conditions for full negotiations have been established," a British diplomat said, referring also to France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China.
Asked if this meant the six did not intend to address Iran's proposals in substance unless Tehran shut down enrichment first, he replied: "That would certainly be one reading of it."
Uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power stations or, if sufficiently enriched, in an atomic weapon. Iran insists its nuclear programme is for generating electricity so it can export more oil, and rejects Western suspicions it may be a cover for building a bomb.
A senior EU diplomat, asked if the six were still insisting Iran suspend enrichment before full negotiations could take place, said: "If Iran's document is indeed a contribution for future negotiations, then it should be discussed in detail when negotiations start. And Iran knows what to do about (that)."
SUSPENSION DEMAND UNREALISTIC?
Analysts say it may no longer be realistic to insist Iran shut down its programme before talks begin and that policymakers should explore a compromise involving mutual security assurances, trade deals and allowing Tehran to keep some nuclear activity under tougher U.N. non-proliferation inspections.
The British diplomat said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was waiting for an invitation to come to Tehran, along with top diplomats from the six except for Americans, to present their incentives packet to Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
He said the six would be in a position to give a preliminary response to Iran's overture during such a meeting in Tehran.
Other diplomats who saw Iran's proposal said it glossed over international worries Iran could parlay enrichment technology into the capability to produce fuel for atomic bombs and so was likely to be of little use in overcoming the stalemate.
Tehran's proposal rejected "injustice and lawless behavior towards the rights of nations", alluding to three sets of U.N. sanctions slapped on Iran over its refusal to halt enrichment.
A multilateral enrichment consortium in Iran, co-managed with other countries, could theoretically minimize chances of diversions into nuclear "weaponisation".
But world powers, wary of Iran's record of nuclear secrecy, curbing U.N. inspections and insistence on nuclear sovereignty, believe such a consortium would allow Tehran to perfect technology applicable to nuclear warheads.
In a letter attached to Iran's proposal, Mottaki said it was important and urged big powers to "deal with it constructively".
In an allusion to sanctions and preconditions, Mottaki said further "intimidation" would only "complicate the situation"
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)