New York Times: Iran and the European Union will not break their impasse over restraining Tehran’s nuclear development program unless the Europeans offer significant incentives like a deal for 10 nuclear reactors, a top Iranian negotiator said Wednesday.
The New York Times
By Neil MacFarquhar
TEHRAN – Iran and the European Union will not break their impasse over restraining Tehran’s nuclear development program unless the Europeans offer significant incentives like a deal for 10 nuclear reactors, a top Iranian negotiator said Wednesday.
Hossein Mousavian, a negotiator from the Supreme National Security Council, said Iran would not continue to suspend its uranium enrichment program indefinitely while, he charged, the Europeans, backed by the United States, dragged out the process with no concrete proposals during the talks.
“The maximum announced was U.S. readiness to give spare parts for used airplanes, which is just a joke as the result of three months of negotiations,” Mousavian said in an interview Wednesday.
The top Iranian negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, is scheduled to meet with the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany in Brussels on Tuesday to try to break the deadlock that stalled the last round of negotiations on April 29.
Mousavian stressed that Iran would never abandon its plans to enrich nuclear fuel domestically, but would provide whatever guarantees were needed to prove it was not diverting the fuel to build nuclear weapons.
“Iran is 100 percent flexible, open, ready to negotiate, to compromise on any mechanism, but not cessation,” he said.
Iran has proposed reaching a complete enrichment cycle in four phases over two years in order for the West to grow confident that it was not attempting to build nuclear weapons, he said.
“In terms of the different phases and the time of each phase we have not closed the door for the Europeans,” he said.
But in exchange Iran expects a major package of incentives involving its security, political stability and economic development, he noted.
Iran seeks to use the nuclear issue to end the international isolation it has been subjected to in varying degrees since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, analysts in Tehran believe, so the timetable for the actual steps is a secondary issue to the agreement itself.
But so far Iran has seen nothing to indicate that the European negotiators, backed by the United States, are even contemplating offering the level of incentives it expects.
“The other side is still at the point of zero,” he said.
Tehran finds this particularly grating since before the revolution the United States had offered 23 nuclear power plants, Germany was building the Bushehr nuclear plant – which the Russians are finally scheduled to help complete next year – and France had signed a contract involving the supply of nuclear fuel.
Asked for a specific example of the kind of incentive Iran seeks, Mousavian said, “Europe can agree in principle to a contract for 10 nuclear power plants for Iran.” The agreement was the main thing, he said, while actual negotiations for a contract might take as long as a year.
Given that major American firms hold the licenses for the most advanced nuclear power plants and that significant investment in Iran is banned under U.S. sanctions, such a deal would be impossible without U.S. approval. But Tehran considers sanctions a problem to be solved by European negotiators, not Iran, Mousavian said.
Iran maintains that under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty the transfer of peaceful means of nuclear power is a right of all signatories. It agreed last autumn to temporarily suspend its efforts to develop a complete nuclear fuel cycle before the negotiations with the European Union started.
The European Union has sought through the talks to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear fuel program in exchange for guaranteed supplies from abroad.
But in recent weeks Iran has threatened to restart the first step in the processing of raw uranium at its uranium conversion facility at Isfahan, although not the enrichment itself, if the talks remain deadlocked.
The European Union said that any Iranian moves to start the fuel cycle, even the steps before enrichment, would prompt it to break off the talks and refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Iran admits to hiding significant elements of its nuclear development program from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog against nuclear proliferation over almost two decades. It is suspected by proliferation experts of hiding a secret program to develop nuclear weapons.