AFP: Iran expects Europe to respond at a meeting Tuesday to its proposal to allow uranium enrichment, despite Western demands that it abandon such nuclear fuel work to guarantee
it will not make atomic weapons, a senior Iranian diplomat said. “We are waiting to hear what the Europeans have to say about our ideas on our fuel production program,” senior
Iranian negotiator Cyrus Nasseri told AFP ahead of the
EU-Iran talks in Geneva. AFP
GENEVA – Iran expects Europe to respond at a meeting Tuesday to its proposal to allow uranium enrichment, despite Western demands that it abandon such nuclear fuel work to guarantee it will not make atomic weapons, a senior Iranian diplomat said.
“We are waiting to hear what the Europeans have to say about our ideas on our fuel production program,” senior Iranian negotiator Cyrus Nasseri told AFP ahead of the EU-Iran talks in Geneva.
European Union negotiators Britain, France and Germany have since March been studying an Iranian proposal that would allow some enrichment, and there have been hints of a crack in their unity over this issue.
But one European diplomat insisted to AFP last week that the European trio is “rock-solid on cessation” by Iran of uranium enrichment, which makes fuel for nuclear reactors but can also be the explosive core of nuclear bombs.
The United States charges that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons. A US official said: “We trust the EU3 (Britain, France and Germany) but we are also watching closely to ensure they continue to hold firm on insisting that the only objective guarantee acceptable to the international community (that Iran’s atomic program is peaceful) is the full cessation and dismantling” of Iran’s nuclear fuel activities.
Nasseri said that the Europeans were not at all demanding, however, that Iran give up all and any enrichment activities and that the Iranian proposal would “give some space to allow confidence to be built.”
Iran claims its nuclear program is peaceful and that it has the right to make nuclear fuel under the provisions of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Nasseri refused to provide details on the Iranian proposal.
But according to a copy of the text submitted to the Europeans on March 23, and read to AFP by a diplomat close to the talks, the Iranians are proposing the “assembly, installation and testing of 3,000 centrifuges in Natanz,” the site where Iran wants to build an enrichment plant and has already built a pilot project of 164 centrifuges.
Centrifuges, placed in sequence, refine increasingly enriched uranium with each cycle. A sequence, or cascade, of about 2,000 centrifuges could make enough highly enriched uranium in a year to make one atom bomb, experts say.
Iran suspended uranium enrichment in November as a confidence-building measure to start the EU-Iran talks, which offer Iran trade, security and technology rewards if it abandons enrichment.
The diplomat, who asked not to be named, said the Iranians had presented what they called “informal ideas” and not a formal request, a move apparently designed to give them negotiating room.
The diplomat said the title of the proposal was “General Framework for Objective Guarantees, Firm Guarantees and Firm Commitments.”
The diplomat said the proposal talked about “the commissioning of the above centrifuges in Natanz” and then “commencement of phased commissioning of Natanz.”
The Iranian proposal has been referred to by other diplomats as a pilot project, below what would be industrial levels of tens of thousands of centrifuges.
But the diplomat who read the text to AFP said: “This isn’t a pilot enrichment plant they are seeking, it’s larger than that.”
The Geneva meeting is a working group to prepare for a meeting of senior foreign ministry officials from the two sides scheduled for April 29 in London, diplomats said.
Gary Samore, a non-proliferation expert at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, told AFP that the Europeans were considering the Iranian proposal as a tactic to keep the talks going past Iranian elections in June.
The poll could elect a president ready to make a deal on the nuclear dispute.
The Iranians are trying to get the number of centrifuges “to a number that would be able to produce a weapon’s worth of highly enriched uranium in a year,” Samore said, referring to the 2,000 figure.