Wednesday, February 15, 2006

EU Tells Iran it Wants to Normalize Relations

Dow Jones Newswires:
The E.U. told Iran Tuesday it wants to normalize relations, but reiterated Tehran's nuclear ambitions and shaky human rights record were making that impossible. In a telephone conversation with her Iranian counterpart, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said the E.U. "was interested in a positive development" of relations, adding this depended on Iran addressing "all the E.U.'s areas of concern." READ MORE

Austria, which now holds the E.U. presidency, said in a statement that Plassnik took Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to task for his nation's nuclear enrichment ambitions.

It said she repeated E.U. pleas for Iran "to reverse this measure as it represents an unnecessary escalatory step."

"We do not question Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Plassnik said.

"However, the history of Iran's (nuclear energy) program and the many unanswered questions have raised serious doubts as to the exclusively peaceful nature of this program."

Also, Iran's refusal to grant international oversight of its nuclear facilities was "a further blow to international confidence," Plassnik said.

The E.U. statement said Plassnik had a "lengthy" telephone conversation with her Iranian counterpart without specifying how long.

The conversation was a rare event as direct contacts between senior E.U. and Iranian officials have become rare.

Relations have hit a low because of anti-Israel comments by Iranian leaders, attacks against E.U. diplomatic missions in Tehran in the wake of the controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad and Iran's decision to enrich uranium.

Plassnik called the attacks on the diplomatic missions and representatives " completely unacceptable" and condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his repeated calls for Israel's destruction and questioning if the Holocaust occurred.

"Our relations with Iran need to be based on mutual confidence ... and a general political environment which allows us to make progress," Plassnik declared.

She made her call to Tehran after Iran announced it has resumed small-scale enrichment of uranium, showing it was determined to proceed with its atomic development despite international moves to restrict it.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is designed solely to generate electricity, but the U.S. and Israel claim the program is a cover for producing an atomic bomb.

Iran insists that as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which provides for peaceful nuclear development, it is entitled to enrich uranium for nuclear reactors. It has threatened to withdraw from the treaty if it was not allowed to exercise that right.