New York Times: Britain, one of the three European Union nations negotiating with Iran over its nuclear project, has concluded that Iran is “quite serious” in its threats to resume uranium enrichment activities that would be likely to lead to
punitive international countermeasures, a senior British official
New York Times
By ALAN COWELL
LONDON – Britain, one of the three European Union nations negotiating with Iran over its nuclear project, has concluded that Iran is “quite serious” in its threats to resume uranium enrichment activities that would be likely to lead to punitive international countermeasures, a senior British official said Monday.
The British calculation was made public before meetings that could shape events leading to United Nations Security Council sanctions if Iran restarts nuclear activities suspended last November, as it is threatening to do.
Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, is to fly to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Iranian officials will meet next week in Europe with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, which have been holding talks about the issue with Iran.
At first, the European negotiators appeared to pursue a “good-cop-bad-cop” strategy with Iran, relying on the United States to threaten Iran with sanctions and other measures if it resumes enrichment activities.
But as Iran has stepped up its threats in recent weeks to restart a nuclear enrichment facility at Isfahan, “this time it is quite serious,” a senior British official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, as is customary in the British civil service.
Previously, the official said, there was a perception that “the Europeans do the nice stuff and the Americans do the nasty stuff,” a reference to European offerings of trade and other incentives for Iran to limit its nuclear activities. Now, though, the official said, “we all have to contribute to an attractive path to Iran cooperating, and all have to contribute to wielding the big stick if Iran doesn’t cooperate.”
“The Iranians are coming to terms with the fact that we are serious,” the official said. At the same time, however, Iranian negotiators “are coming under more pressure to produce a solution,” partly because of domestic political developments.
The official’s remarks, in a conversation with reporters from two American newspapers, suggested that Britain was seeking wider international support both for continued negotiations and for Security Council action if talks collapse.
The European negotiators offered to meet Iranian officials in a letter last week in which they said negotiations would fail if Iran broke an agreement in Paris last year by reactivating the Isfahan plant.
In response, Iranian negotiators held off delivering a formal notification to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna of its plans to reactivate the enrichment plant.
But in remarks reported by the Iranian news agency IRNA on Monday, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said the talks next week were intended to give the Europeans a “last chance” to reach a compromise.
Iran says it wants to use its nuclear facilities only for power generation, but the United States, Britain and others believe that it wants to make nuclear weapons.
The British official said sanctions could take various calibrated forms, including a simple condemnation but moving on to a formal prohibition on uranium enrichment, turning last November’s voluntary agreement into a mandatory ban. There could also be individual sanctions on nuclear industry officials or broader sanctions that might affect Iran’s economy, the official said.
But before reaching that stage, other British officials said, Britain wants a broad international consensus for action against Iran if the negotiations next week fail and it does resume enrichment activities.