Saturday, June 04, 2005

EU, US Stand Firm on Iran Abandoning Nuclear Fuel Cycle Work

Agence France Presse, Yahoo! News:
The EU and the United States remain committed to Iran giving up uranium enrichment work that could be used to make atomic weapons and want to clear up any confusion over this with Tehran, diplomats said. A trio of European Union negotiators, Britain, France and Germany, are to try to clear up an apparent misunderstanding over the US position on uranium enrichment as explained by President George W. Bush on Tuesday, diplomats said.

A US and an EU diplomat told AFP the statement may have misled the Iranians into thinking Washington is open to their being able to enrich uranium to low levels. READ MORE

These diplomatic moves come with Iran saying it has not yet decided whether to grant a two-month delay in talks with the EU over its nuclear ambitions.

The talks are deadlocked over Iran's insistence on its right to enrich uranium, a process which makes fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but which can also be the explosive core of atom bombs.

The United States charges that Iran is using its civilian atomic program to hide the development of nuclear weapons but is backing the EU initiative to get Iran to definitively abandon enrichment in return for trade, technology and security incentives.

Bush told a press conference Tuesday in Washington that US policy is that Iran has violated international nuclear safeguards "and therefore they're not to be trusted when it comes to highly enriched uranium or highly enriching uranium."

"And therefore our policy is to prevent them from having the capacity to develop enriched uranium to the point where they're able to make a nuclear weapon," he said.

The EU diplomat, who asked not to be named, said Bush's talking of highly enriched uranium instead of low enriched uranium, which would not be weapons-grade, may have emboldened the Iranians to try to accelerate negotiations with the EU.

The diplomat said "Bush's stance (of apparently not ruling out low-level enrichment) has encouraged the Iranians to ask for more. He has served them on a silver platter something that goes even beyond the EU-3's wording," which is to permanently give up all enrichment activities.

But a US diplomat said the Iranians had "completely misunderstood what the president said."

"The United States government believes Iran must not be allowed to retain any sensitive nuclear fuel cycle capabilities, which includes enrichment, conversion, reprocessing and heavy water reactors," the US diplomat said.

The diplomat said the Europeans were "going to make the US position more clear to the Iranians" and the EU diplomat confirmed this.

The EU diplomat said Iran had on Thursday told ambassadors in Tehran from Britain, France and Germany that Iran wanted the talks aimed at guaranteeing Tehran is not secretly developing nuclear weapons to resume soon, with a major meeting within one month.

Iran had agreed last month to halt talks for two months, until August, which would be after its presidential elections on June 17 and after the EU comes up with concrete proposals at the end of July on cooperation with Tehran.

The EU diplomat said Iran's saying this calendar was not acceptable "was really a big surprise" to the EU-3.

But Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Agha Mohammadi said in Tehran Saturday: "We are in the process of examining the European proposal, to hear the latest things that the Europeans have to say to us, and we will give a response next week."

The EU diplomat said Iran also insisted that its enriching uranium be part of any talks or agreement with the European trio.

Iran has temporarily suspended enrichment but insists it has the right to carry out this process within the framework of a peaceful nuclear program.