New York Times: Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator on Friday cast doubts on a Russian proposal to end the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, but he did not shut the door on it entirely, saying Iran was willing to continue discussing it. New York Times
By NAZILA FATHI
TEHRAN, Jan. 27 Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator on Friday cast doubts on a Russian proposal to end the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, but he did not shut the door on it entirely, saying Iran was willing to continue discussing it.
Amid international concern that Iran has resumed nuclear activities it had promised to suspend, Russia has proposed allowing Iran to operate civilian nuclear facilities as long as Russia and international inspectors took full control of the fuel. That would, in theory, enable Iran to satisfy its energy needs without giving it means to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States, Europe and China support the compromise as the best way to negotiate a resolution to the standoff. But Ali Larijani, the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, who also leads the nation’s negotiating team, said, “The Russian proposal does not meet the needs of Iran’s nuclear energy program,” according to the IRNA news agency.
“The capacity of the program is not sufficient for the needs of our nuclear program,” he was quoted as saying. “But we cannot say that it is a negative proposal. We think it can be pursued.”
He spoke Friday after a trip to China and Russia, where he sought support before a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency next Thursday. The West was alarmed this month after Iran broke its agreement with Europe by removing the protective seals at its nuclear facility in Natanz, where it can enrich uranium. Highly enriched uranium can be used in nuclear weapons, though Iran says its nuclear program is purely for peaceful energy purposes.
The United States, France, Germany and Britain have urged other nations to refer Iran to the Security Council for sanctions. In an interview on Friday with Bob Schieffer of CBS News, President Bush said that while he believed Iran should be referred to the Security Council, sanctions were only one option. “We are going to work with our friends and allies to make sure that when we get in the Security Council, we will have an effective response,” he said.
Mr. Larijani, however, warned Europe on Friday to avoid “any hasty or irrational action.”
Much of the reason there is broad support for the Russian proposal is that Iran could simply withdraw from negotiations and eject international inspectors if the Security Council took up sanctions.
The details of the proposal need to be defined, but it calls for a plan in which Iran would ship UF4 and UF6, the gasses produced at Iran’s nuclear facility in Isfahan, to Russia for enrichment. The enriched uranium would then be shipped back to Iran.
Iran dismissed the proposal a few months ago, but showed interest this month under international pressure.
Kazem Jalali, the spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission, however, said in an interview that it was unlikely that Tehran would accept the plan unless it enabled Iran to carry out the work in the country.
“Russia’s proposal is still very vague, but we cannot accept it if it does not allow us to enrich uranium inside Iran,” he said. “We will continue the negotiations with the Russians, but it should be a partnership inside Iran.”
“Having the fuel cycle inside the country is our red line, and we cannot compromise over our national interests,” he added.
David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington for this article.