Reuters: Iran threatened to resume sensitive atomic activities unless France, Britain and Germany agreed at a meeting on Friday to allow it to carry out small-scale uranium enrichment. The latest proposal from Tehran suggests it be allowed to
build up its uranium enrichment programme in stages, beginning with a small “pilot” enrichment plant and ending
with a commercial-scale complex.
By Madeline Chambers
LONDON – Iran threatened to resume sensitive atomic activities unless France, Britain and Germany agreed at a meeting on Friday to allow it to carry out small-scale uranium enrichment.
The latest proposal from Tehran suggests it be allowed to build up its uranium enrichment programme in stages, beginning with a small “pilot” enrichment plant and ending with a commercial-scale complex.
The European Union’s three biggest powers are spearheading talks aimed at persuading Iran to scrap its nuclear fuel programme, fearing it could be used to build nuclear weapons, in exchange for economic and political incentives. Tehran has so far refused.
The EU powers hope to leave the hard negotiations on Tehran’s atomic ambitions until after Iran’s June 17 presidential elections. They view Friday’s meeting with senior officials as little more than an informal dinner chat.
“We don’t want to break things up now and have a row. We want to continue the negotiating process after the Iranian election,” a European diplomat told Reuters.
But senior Iranian official Sirus Naseri, in London for the meeting, said he wanted agreement soon.
“The foundation for agreement is in place,” he told Reuters.
“We think it is unreasonable to avoid agreement,” he added, insisting he was not putting “undue pressure” on the “EU-3”.
Iran has suspended its enrichment programme under international pressure, but four months of talks with the Europeans have yielded no breakthrough and Iran says the programme must resume.
“If there is no agreement and the Europeans insist on further time … we may have to readjust the situation so it will be a more balanced position. It will not be balanced if the suspension will remain,” he added, in an apparent threat to resume enrichment unilaterally.
Another senior nuclear negotiator said Iran would only keep talking if the Europeans said Iran’s proposal was an acceptable basis for a future deal.
EU diplomats, however, said there would be no definitive response to the plan, but rather dialogue about it.
The EU and Washington suspect Iran wants atomic weapons but Tehran insists its programme is only for the peaceful generation of electricity.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential former Iranian president preparing to run again in June, said Tehran was determined to embark on uranium enrichment and other branches of nuclear technology.
“And we will have it at any cost,” he told worshippers in Tehran.
U.S. WARNS IRAN, REMINDS EU
Washington warned Tehran not to leave the negotiating table or resume any parts of its enrichment programme.
It also reminded the EU of its pledge to help refer Iran’s case to the U.N. Security Council, which could lead to economic sanctions, if Tehran followed through on its latest threats.
“If Iran chooses to walk away from talks with the EU-3 and end its current suspension … the EU-3 have already made clear to Iran that they would work with us and others to report Iran’s nuclear programme to the U.N. Security Council,” a U.S. official in Vienna told Reuters on Friday on condition of anonymity.
EU diplomats say Tehran knows the idea of “pilot” enrichment is unacceptable to them and to Washington, which takes a harder line than the Europeans despite last month giving its backing to the diplomatic initiative.
Keen to keep Iran talking, the EU trio is officially considering the idea, as long as Iran continues its suspension.
“There’s no change in our position that (enrichment) cessation is the only objective guarantee we’ve found,” said one EU-3 diplomat.
The Europeans, aware of the tense political atmosphere in Iran before June’s elections, say they will not overreact to any Iranian hard talking after Friday’s meeting.