AFP: Iran formally requested fresh talks with the European Union on its controversial nuclear programme Sunday but was swiftly rebuffed for so long as it rejects a renewed freeze on
fuel cycle work.
by Laurent Lozano
TEHRAN, Nov 6 (AFP) – Iran formally requested fresh talks with the European Union on its controversial nuclear programme Sunday but was swiftly rebuffed for so long as it rejects a renewed freeze on fuel cycle work.
Iranian news agencies reported that the country’s top nuclear official, Ali Larijani, had sent a letter to foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany “insisting on the necessity of negotiations”.
Talks between Iran and the so-called EU-3 broke off in August when Iran resumed uranium conversion activities in defiance of international calls to maintain a suspension.
In the letter, Larijani said that Iran would “welcome negotiations that are constructive and based on logic”, the first such approach since he took over the nuclear file from pragmatic cleric Hassan Rowhani after hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in June.
But the letter also insisted on “Iran’s need to exercise its legitimate rights and to see its national interests guaranteed,” the news agencies said, apparently backing up Iran’s announcement that it would soon embark on fresh nuclear fuel work and was seeking investors for uranium enrichment activities.
Officials said Iran would be converting a fresh batch of uranium ore — the precursor step to enrichment — in a flagrant rejection of EU calls for a renewed freeze on such activities that prompted an EU diplomat to reject the Iranian request out-of-hand.
“No, definitely not,” the diplomat from one of the three EU countries that had been negotiating with Iran told AFP in Vienna when asked whether there was any chance of the bloc agreeing to new talks.
Iranian media said the government had given the go-ahead last Wednesday for the country’s atomic energy agency to look for foreign and domestic investors for uranium enrichment, even though such work remains suspended.
Officials said Iran would also be converting new consignments of uranium ore at its plant outside the central city of Isfahan, after resuming this crucial part of the fuel cycle in August following a suspension.
“We have told the (International Atomic Energy) Agency (IAEA) that we are going to inject new initial materials (uranium ore) into the production chain,” Javad Vaidi, an official from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told state television.
The decisions appear to be a fresh sign of Iran’s determination to make full use of the nuclear fuel cycle, despite international pressure to cease all enrichment-related activities as proof it is not seeking a nuclear bomb.
They come three weeks ahead of a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog which could theoretically send Iran to the Security Council and amid mounting concerns about the direction of Ahmadinejad’s government.
Iran says it only wishes to enrich to the low-level purity required for reactor fuel but its enemies have accused Tehran of seeking to make a nuclear bomb.
The EU-3 has attempted to persuade Iran to permanently suspend uranium enrichment as a watertight guarantee that its nuclear programme is peaceful.
But Iran insists its right to enrichment is enshrined in both the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its additional protocol.
On the horizon now looms the November 24 meeting of the IAEA, where the United States and Europe could call for Tehran to be hauled up before the UN Security Council if it does not halt all uranium enrichment related activities.
Previous attempts for such a move have foundered over Russian opposition and Moscow is once again expected to play a key role in November’s meeting.
Iran also moved to weigh the scales in its favour by last week allowing UN inspectors access to the Parchin military site, where Washington charges it may be testing high-explosive charges with an inert core of depleted uranium.