Monday, November 07, 2005

European Diplomat Nixes Iranian Talks Request

Agence France-Presse, TerraNet:
A European Union diplomat said an Iranian request to resume nuclear talks with the EU was unacceptable since Iran refuses to suspend fuel work that raises fears Tehran is secretly developing atomic weapons. "No, definitely not," the diplomat from one of the three EU countries that had been negotiating with Iran told AFP about resuming talks on giving the Islamic Republic trade and other benefits in exchange for guarantees Tehran's nuclear program is peaceful.

Iran on Sunday formally asked Britain, France and Germany to reopen the stalled talks, Iranian news agencies said in Tehran.

Iran's top nuclear official Ali Larijani has sent the countries' foreign ministers a letter "insisting on the necessity of negotiations," the official IRNA and the semi-official Mehr agencies said.

In London, a spokesman for the Foreign Office said, "we are not going to comment on that. We are still considering our response." There was no immediate reaction from Paris and Berlin. READ MORE

Negotiations 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 on work towards making enriched uranium, which can be fuel for nuclear power reactors but also the explosive core of atom bombs.

Iran said Sunday that it would be converting a fresh batch of uranium ore, in a flagrant rejection of calls from the EU-3 and the United States for Tehran to halt this work.

Conversion makes the uranium gas which is the feedstock for producing enriched uranium.

"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 work would take place at a conversion plant in Isfahan in central Iran,

In Vienna, where the IAEA is based, the European diplomat said the EU-3 group "has been saying all along that this (continuing uranium conversion) is not the right basis for re-starting the negotiations."

The diplomat, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that resuming negotiations "needs a different situation, a different approach, different moves from the Iranian side."

Iran's moves Sunday "just reinforce the point that they are not willing to return to the status quo ante," the diplomat said.

The diplomat said that Iran, which has staved off repeated US attempts to have the IAEA refer the matter to the UN Security Council, "feel they can just have the United States and Europe swallow conversion, and go back to the negotiating table without any move on their part and this is not going to happen."

Another diplomat, also from an EU-3 country, said that the IAEA "has called for Iran to suspend conversion at Isfahan, and until the Iranians do that it's hard to see how negotiations can take place."

Iran faces the risk of referral to the UN Security Council over its atomic program, after the IAEA in September found it to be in "non-compliance" with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Diplomats say that Tehran appears to be showing more cooperation with an IAEA investigation into its nuclear program in order to avoid referral to the council, which could impose trade sanctions.

Efforts to get Russia, which is building Iran's first nuclear power reactor, to back the US-European Union drive for referral may also need more time, diplomats said.

The IAEA is to meet on the matter on November 24 and is expected to put off deciding on Iran until a later meeting.