Thursday, May 11, 2006

Iran Insists on Nuclear R&D Rights

The Financial Times:
Iran warned on Thursday that proposals being prepared by European governments to resolve the nuclear dispute must allow Tehran to continue uranium enrichment for “research and development“. In the first official reaction to world powers' decision to draw up a set of incentives to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear programme, a senior Iranian official underlined that this small scale enrichment, conducted at a pilot plant in Natanz, was a red line. READ MORE

Hossein Entezami, spokesman for the Supreme National Security Council, also suggested, however, flexibility over enrichment on an industrial scale. He was quoted by Reuters as telling the semi-official Mehr News Agency that Iran would review European proposals if its rights “are respected.“

Under pressure from Russia and China, the US agreed this week to postpone discussions over a UN Security Council requiring Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment activities, and allow time for European governments to draw up a package of benefits to encourage a change its behaviour.

Mr Entezami's statements follow a letter from Hassan Rowhani, Iran's former top security official, to Time magazine, in which he put forward concrete proposals for resolving the nuclear dispute.

The letter, published a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad wrote a long treatise to American president George Bush, argued that the west should accept Iran's laboratory uranium enrichment and negotiate over “the scope and timing” of industrial enrichment.

In return, it said, Iran would accept a “cap on level of reactor grade uranium” that could be monitored by UN inspectors. Uranium used in nuclear weapons requires enrichment at a high level.

In broad outline, the proposal echoed the direction Mr Rowhani sought to steer two-year negotiations with the European Union, before they finally broke down in January six months after Mr Rowhani stepped down as secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).

In comments last month, Mr Rowhani suggested these negotiations had reached a point where the Europeans had effectively accepted that Iran could convert raw uranium into feeder gas and keep its nuclear pilot plant at Natanz in return for agreeing a long-term suspension of industrial-scale enrichment - something the Europeans have publicly denied.

Pragmatic conservatives like Mr Rowhani are uneasy at Iran's direction under Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, and have been lobbying within the Iranian regime for a more balanced and less emotional approach.