Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On Nuclear Issue, Iran Is United, West Is Divided

Iran has given the EU3 until early June to permit Iran to restart its uranium enrichment program. Thus far the EU3 have rejected these Iranian proposals.
The WSJ reports:
"They're always probing for weaknesses," one European diplomat said yesterday, adding, "We're all wondering if this is 'the crisis' or just another test." ...

Europe's negotiators say their task is made harder by difficult-to-read factional struggles in Tehran, as well as the presidential elections, in which Iran's right to nuclear technology is an issue of national pride. Indeed, diplomats differ on whether there is anything the West could offer Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Some Europeans say they have a similar problem reading the Bush administration, which has given only grudging support to the negotiations while doing little to hide its desire for "regime change" in Tehran. ...

The Iranians have constantly probed for cracks in the EU-3's unity on the enrichment issue. Some officials in Washington have expressed concern that France might be willing to accept an Iranian proposal to retain a small pilot enrichment plant under IAEA supervision. "Phase two" of Iran's proposed framework, delivered to negotiators in March, specifies the "assembly, installation and testing of 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz." "Phase 4," the final stage, calls for the full commissioning of the Natanz plants, which can house some 50,000 centrifuges.

French officials say they remain opposed to any enrichment efforts, while other diplomats said any doubts about Paris's position were firmly laid to rest at Friday's meeting with the Iranians in London. Tehran made no effort to disguise its disappointment with that meeting. On Saturday, Iran's top negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, said his country's leadership would make "a definitive decision on whether or not to resume uranium enrichment" this week.