Iran Nuclear NewsEurope Rejects Iran's Demand to Use Uranium Equipment

Europe Rejects Iran’s Demand to Use Uranium Equipment


New York Times: Iran is demanding the right to operate uranium enrichment equipment for research purposes,
despite its recent agreement with the Europeans to freeze crucial nuclear activities, European and Iranian officials said Wednesday. European officials swiftly rejected the demand, calling it a violation of the deal. New York Times


VIENNA – Iran is demanding the right to operate uranium enrichment equipment for research purposes, despite its recent agreement with the Europeans to freeze crucial nuclear activities, European and Iranian officials said Wednesday.

European officials swiftly rejected the demand, calling it a violation of the deal.

In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, Iran declared its right to run about two dozen centrifuges, machines that can be used to enrich uranium, the officials said.

The demand struck diplomats here as a symbolic, but important, last effort by Iran to assert its sovereign right to enrich uranium, which it contends it is doing only to produce fuel for generating electricity. Thousands of centrifuges must run for months to produce enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

But the demand is certain to erode the international community’s confidence in Iran’s contentions, and its commitment to abide by the deal it struck with Britain, France, Germany and the European Union nine days ago.

Iran made the demand on the eve of a crucial meeting here of the 35-country governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will decide the extent to which Iran should be censured for not fully cooperating with the agency on its nuclear program.

In London, the British Foreign Office dismissed the Iranian demand. “The agreement stands as it states,” an official statement said. “There is absolutely no exception to the agreed suspension of all reprocessing, conversion and enrichment activities.”

In Brussels, a European Union official had the same reaction, saying: “The response is no. It has to be no. An agreement is an agreement. This was a stupid move on the part of the Iranians.”

In Paris, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Cecile Pozzo di Borgo, said that the French government would not comment publicly until after the board meeting on Thursday.

But an Iranian official here said that Iran never agreed to curb all of its research activities under the European accord.

“We have informed the I.A.E.A. that we will do research and development for centrifuges,” the official said. “This is not uranium enrichment. This is not using nuclear material. We never agreed with the Europeans not to do R and D. It would be absolutely impossible for us not to do R and D.”

He added that centrifuges are even used in hospitals to do blood tests.

It was not known if the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue, was speaking on behalf of the Iranian government, or whether the demand was merely a test of the Europeans’ will in an effort to keep Iran’s options open.

It might also have been an effort to drive a wedge between the nuclear agency and the Europeans.

The agency has taken the position that it has all of Iran’s known enrichment programs sealed and under safeguards, and that the issue of centrifuge research is a matter for Iran to work out directly with its European negotiating partners under the terms of its agreement.

At the meeting here, officials will consider a Nov. 15 report by Mohamed ElBaradei, the agency director, which states that Iran “has conducted experiments to acquire the know-how for almost every aspect” of the nuclear fuel cycle in order to become self-sufficient. It also details evidence that Iran repeatedly has not given the agency the information and access it has requested.

In the deal with the Europeans, the Iranian government agreed to the full suspension of uranium enrichment and all related reprocessing and conversion activities while the two sides negotiate a complicated long-term pact to provide Iran with technology and economic, political and security benefits.

It does not specifically address centrifuge research. Following a similar, but vaguer agreement reached with the three European countries last October, Iran was allowed to continue centrifuge research. That agreement fell apart when Iran restarted its enrichment activities, charging the Europeans with not living up to their commitments.

The goal of the Europeans this time is to convince Iran that the rewards of abandoning its enrichment program hugely outweigh the benefits of the program.

But the Iranians were given nothing concrete in exchange for suspending enrichment, and the deal has been widely criticized in Iran as a sign of the country’s capitulation.

Iran knows well that many of the potential rewards proposed by the Europeans, such as membership in the World Trade Organization and access to a light water nuclear reactor, depend on the consent of the United States.

Iran has insisted that it has the sovereign right to enrich uranium and that the freeze is only temporary.

Even before the most recent demand, Iran had unnerved the international community by speeding up one crucial area of the enrichment process at its uranium conversion plant in Isfahan in the week between when the agreement was reached and when it took effect.

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