AP: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow will only host Iran’s uranium enrichment program if Tehran agrees to re-impose an indefinite freeze on enrichment at home. Associated Press
VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow will only host Iran’s uranium enrichment program if Tehran agrees to re-impose an indefinite freeze on enrichment at home.
In Paris Thursday, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that Iran’s nuclear program is a cover for clandestine military activity.
“No civil nuclear program can explain the Iranian nuclear program. It is a clandestine military nuclear program,” Douste-Blazy said on France-2 television.
“The international community has sent a very firm message in telling the Iranians to return to reason and suspend all nuclear activity and the enrichment and conversion of uranium, but they aren’t listening to us.”
Lavrov’s comments Wednesday came just five days before talks in Moscow on moving Iran’s enrichment program to Russia to allay fears that Tehran might misuse the technology to make nuclear arms. The meeting is crucial, with tensions over Iran likely to diminish if Tehran agrees to the Russian proposal – and to balloon if it does not.
Lavrov, in Vienna to meet senior European Union officials under Austria’s EU presidency, suggested that any hope in Tehran for Russian backing of enrichment on Iranian soil was a long way off.
“When confidence in the Iranian nuclear program is re-established … we could come back to the possible implementation of the right that Iran has to develop a nuclear energy sector full scale,” said Lavrov.
Russia, a traditional ally of Iran, backed Tehran’s referral to the U.N. Security Council earlier this month on condition the council take up the issue no earlier than March and based on a report being prepared by International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei on his agency’s probe into Tehran’s nuclear program.
An Iranian official said Wednesday that Tehran would like to avoid having the Security Council take action on its nuclear program and believes Russia’s proposal could provide the basis for an immediate short-term solution.
But Iran will not abandon its right to full nuclear technology, including enriching uranium, which is guaranteed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, said the official, who is knowledgeable about the country’s nuclear negotiations.
Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator, Javad Vaeidi, will lead the team heading to Moscow for talks Monday with the Russians to deal with concerns and clarifications Tehran has about the Russian proposal, the Iranian official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
“But we have said there are prospects for the proposal to become acceptable and to be implemented,” the official said. “We will do our best in good faith to reach that positive conclusion.”
Iran confirmed Tuesday it has resumed small-scale uranium enrichment, and on Wednesday Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Ahmadinejad’s visit to the plant in central Iran was widely seen as a gesture of support for scientists involved in Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Activities at Natanz had been suspended since October 2003.
“What enemies fear is not production of an atomic bomb, because in today’s world atomic bombs are not efficient,” Ahmadinejad was quoted by the news agency as saying. “The main fear and concern of enemies is the self-reliance and knowledge of the Iranian nation and the fact that Iranian youth are acquiring peaceful nuclear technology.”
The Iranian official said it is a matter of national pride that the country has developed or copied the technology to produce and run centrifuges and the materials used in the centrifuges despite efforts by the United States and other Western countries to deprive it of nuclear technology.
Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium. Uranium enriched to low level is used to produce nuclear fuel for reactors and further enrichment makes it suitable for use in nuclear weapons.
Iran had 164 centrifuges in Natanz sealed by the IAEA in 2003. The seals were removed last month when Iran resumed nuclear research. Iranian officials have indicated that Tehran may possess up to 2,000 centrifuges. For a large-scale enrichment, Iran has to build up to 60,000 centrifuges.
The official stressed that Iran wants to use nuclear technology purely for peaceful purposes, that it opposes all weapons of mass destruction and favors all countries getting rid of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
The official asked Security Council members to consider whether using pressure and possibly imposing sanctions will advance international nonproliferation efforts, or whether the object is to ensure that Iran does not divert its nuclear technology into the military arena.
Sanctions could damage Iran’s economy, and pressure will only strengthen the resolve of the Iranian people to advance their peaceful nuclear technology, the official said.
The way to advance nonproliferation, the official said, is to ensure that Iran’s nuclear technology is used transparently and is closely monitored by the IAEA. Iran is prepared to increase monitoring to an unprecedented level, the official said.
The official said the Russian proposal could pave the way for negotiations on a longer-term solution which would allow Iran to enrich uranium by 3.5 percent under the strictest monitoring the IAEA has ever conducted, along with legal and political commitments, the official said.
Associated Press Writer Ali Akbar Dareini contributed to this report from Tehran