Saturday, May 13, 2006

EU to Urge Halt to All Iran Enrichment

The European Union will insist on Monday that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment despite Tehran's demand that some be allowed for research goals, a draft declaration obtained by Reuters on Friday showed. "(The EU) calls on the Iranian authorities to cooperate fully with the (U.N. nuclear watchdog) IAEA, suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development," said the statement drafted for an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Tehran said on Thursday that a proposal being drawn up by European states on its nuclear program must allow Iran to enrich uranium for atomic research and development purposes.

The United States and its Western allies suspect Iran of covertly seeking atomic weapons, while Tehran says its long concealed nuclear program is purely for civil energy purposes.

Diplomats said the EU's three main powers -- Britain, France and Germany -- would meet on the sidelines of the Brussels session to discuss a new package of incentives and sanctions designed to lure Iran back to the negotiating table.

The draft statement gave no details of that package but said: "The EU would be prepared to support Iran's development of a safe, sustainable and proliferation-proof civilian nuclear program if international concerns were fully addressed and confidence in Iran's intentions established."

EU diplomats hope to have the package ready in time for a May 19 meeting in London of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, after the EU won U.S. blessing last week for another attempt at diplomacy. READ MORE

The proposal will build on an offer made last August which Iran rejected out of hand, and is expected to contain a mix of assistance with Iran's civil nuclear program, freer trade with Europe and political incentives, diplomats say.


One envoy, who declined to be identified, said the EU was looking at an "August Plus" package, going beyond the previous offer of economic, political and technical benefits in return for a permanent suspension of enrichment activities.

Diplomats said the original package included allowing Western companies to build nuclear power stations in Iran and supply fuel for them, but it was not yet clear whether the new package would move forward that idea.

"We are working at it (the package) and it has to be backed by action by the Security Council," said Cristina Gallach, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

In the draft declaration, the EU foreign ministers say they fully support efforts to get a U.N. resolution making legally binding international demands on Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing.

Russia and China have resisted such a move so far.

The EU3 offer will outline "targeted sanctions" that the Europeans could take against Tehran if it does not comply with international demands, an EU diplomat said.

Ministers last month reviewed options including a travel ban on individuals involved in Iran's nuclear program, tighter export controls on dual-use technologies and a ban on Iranian students studying sensitive sciences in European universities.

Ultimately, restrictions could include a ban on export credit guarantees to companies trading with Iran. But EU states, some of them with substantial economic interests in the country, are wary of tough economic sanctions for now, diplomats said.