AFP: Iran’s new hardline nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Thursday challenged the role of Britain, France and Germany as the leaders of diplomatic efforts over the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme. AFP
by Aresu Eqbali
TEHRAN – Iran’s new hardline nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Thursday challenged the role of Britain, France and Germany as the leaders of diplomatic efforts over the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.
“Based on what logic and agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have the negotiations been limited and dependent on the three European countries?” Larijani was quoted as saying by state television.
“Who does the EU-3 represent in the negotiations? Is it the (IAEA) board of governors, the EU, the United Nations or themselves?” Larijani said, posing an unprecedented question over the capacity of the negotiating partners.
Larijani also signalled that Iran may look towards widening involvement in the talks, which have aimed at pressing Iran into providing “objective guarantees” that it will not use an atomic energy drive as a means to develop nuclear weapons.
Larijani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said non-aligned countries had also asked Tehran to explain why the negotiations have only been with the EU-3.
“Based on its policy to continue negotiations… the Iranian side welcomes talks with all countries including the board of governors, the Europeans and Non-Aligned Movement members under the framework and objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said.
Iran has accused the three European states of damaging the diplomatic effort by demanding Iran abandon its work on the nuclear fuel cycle — the focus of fears Iran could acquire the bomb — even though fuel work is technically permitted by the NPT.
But the EU-3 says Iran is to blame for the breakdown in the talks due to its decision earlier this month to resume uranium ore conversion work — a precursor to the ultra-sensitive enrichment process which had been suspended.
The IAEA board, which is to receive a report on Iran on September 3 from agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, has called on Tehran to reinstate the suspension. Iran has refused, and could face referral to the UN Security Council.
But Larijani, who replaced the more moderate negotiator Hassan Rowhani after election win of ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also confirmed comments from the president that Iran was working on new proposals for the talks.
“Mr Ahmadinejad has an idea and an innovation for continuing the nuclear activities. After the establishment of the new government, the aspects of this idea will be studied and presented under one package,” Larijani said.
Like Ahmadinejad, he did not elaborate on the initiatives.
According to diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, the United States is working hard behind the scenes for Iran to be referred to the Security Council.
But several IAEA board members fear that could make matters worse, and also point to the lack of a “smoking gun” that would prove US allegations that Iran is seeking the bomb.
Tehran has also been emboldened by reports that both UN and US experts have found no evidence that Iran was secretly enriching uranium.