Iran Nuclear NewsEU3 warns of ‘managed crisis' over Iran ambitions

EU3 warns of ‘managed crisis’ over Iran ambitions

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Financial Times: European officials have warned of a “managed crisis” in Europe’s dialogue with Iran over the country’s nuclear ambitions, after Iranian negotiators said they would consider resuming part of the uranium enrichment process suspended since 2003. Financial Times

By Gareth Smyth in Tehran and Daniel Dombey in Brussels

European officials have warned of a “managed crisis” in Europe’s dialogue with Iran over the country’s nuclear ambitions, after Iranian negotiators said they would consider resuming part of the uranium enrichment process suspended since 2003.

The meeting between the two sides in London on Friday “had a good atmosphere but was clear cut”, said a senior European diplomat in Tehran.

He added: “The Iranian negotiators are trying to put pressure on Europe and, at the same time, they are responding to domestic critics of the process. They seem to want a managed crisis, or rather a crisis they think they can manage.”

Both sides now suggest that for Iran and Europe to manage such a crisis and keep the process alive repre sents the stiffest challenge in the 18-month-old talks. A “managed crisis” would amount to a suspension in talks where both sides expect a resumption in the autumn but where, with out resumption, some kind of escalation including perhaps a United Nations Security Council referral or even US-Israeli strikes becomes more likely later in the year.

Iran’s threat to resume part of its uranium enrichment was in reaction to a lukewarm response from representatives of the EU3 Britain, France and Germany to a framework proposal for future talks submitted by Tehran in March, after the Europeans demanded “objective guarantees” from Iran that its nuclear programme was peaceful.

“We said we would continue to examine Iran’s suggestions but we could not treat them as the basis for working towards an agreement, because we couldn’t put the end-game first,” said the European diplomat.

Iran said it might resume converting raw uranium into gas, an early part of the process of enriching uranium, and so end the suspension of all enrichment-related activities it began as a gesture of “goodwill” in 2003 to help talks on nuclear, political, security and trade issues.

“I’d say it was 99 percent likely Iran will restart [some activity”>,” said an Iranian diplomat close to the talks. “We have decided it cannot go on like this anymore.”

But the European diplomat said Iran was risking “brinkmanship” that might undermine the negotiations. “For Iran to resume conversion would be to renege on the Paris agreement [reached between the EU3 and Iran in November 2003″> which clearly involved Iran continuing suspension as long as talks continued.”

On Saturday, Iran announced it might resume conversion within days at its Isfahan facility. Hassan Rowhani, Iran’s top security official, stressed “this decision doesn’t mean a resumption of uranium enrichment, and is only the start of some preliminary nuclear activities”.

Mr Rowhani said talks had made “good progress [with”> a convergence of opinions” although there were “some disagreements about the timing of activities”.

Both the Europeans and Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, have spoken of the autumn as the cut-off for the process, even if the EU3 suspends talks in response to Iran resuming conversion.

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