European heavyweights give Iran last chance to come clean on nuclear program
VIENNA (AFP) Oct 21, 2004
Europe's three heavyweight states were Thursday to give Iran a last chance to reassure the world it is not secretly developing atomic weapons, offering valuable nuclear technology as a carrot and possible UN sanctions as the stick.
Britain, France and Germany are ready to promise Iran nuclear technology, including supplying a light-water reactor, if Tehran indefinitely suspends all uranium enrichment activities, according to a confidential document obtained by AFP and confirmed in Vienna by diplomats.
Political directors from the foreign ministries of the three European states are to meet in Vienna with Iranian foreign ministry international political affairs director Amir Hossein Zamani-Nia, Iran's ambassador to the Vienna-based UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.
Ambassador Pirooz Hosseini told AFP Iran expected to receive a proposal from the European trio but that no decision would be reached Thursday.
"We have to receive the text and then take it back to our capital and see if it is approved, and if it is not approved, then that is another story," Hosseini said.
Iran had refused Wednesday to give up on producing enriched uranium, which is the process used to make fuel for civilian reactors but also the explosive core of nuclear weapons.
"We demand respect for our rights to have nuclear technology for civilian use and that no one tries to deprive us of this," President Mohammad Khatami said, but added that "we are ready to cooperate and believe that dialogue and negotiation are the only ways to reach an understanding."
Iran insists its nuclear program is strictly peaceful.
The meeting, which diplomats said was to be held at a secret location to avoid press coverage, is to give Iran a last-chance to come clean before the IAEA decides on November 25 whether Iran is cooperating with it or not.
The United States wants the IAEA, which since February 2003 been investigating Iran on US charges that the Islamic Republic has a covert nuclear weapons program, to send Iran to the UN Security Council, which could impose punishing sanctions.
But the European trio have opposed this, favoring instead a policy of "constructive engagement" to get Tehran to cooperate. They had reached an agreement with Iran in October 2003 to suspend uranium enrichment but this did not include support activities such as building centrifuges and making the feed gas for the enrichment process.
The Europeans are now ready to promise Iran a whole range of measures, including access to nuclear fuel for its civilian reactors and recognizing Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear power program, according to a seven-page confidential paper the European trio presented to the G8 group of industrialized nations last week in Washington.
"We would support the acquisition by Iran of a light water research reactor," the paper said, adding that the EU would "be ready to resume negotiations on an EU/Iran trade and cooperation agreement" and back Russia's building of a nuclear reactor for Iran in Bushehr.
The United States said Wednesday it would be "concerned" by Iran's acquisition of any new nuclear technology, signalling opposition to the European offer.
"We have long had concerns about Iran's acquisition of nuclear capability, of nuclear technology, because for many years we have seen a confirmed pattern of noncompliance with safeguards," spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
A Vienna-based western diplomat said the United States is watching the European initiative to see how Iran responds and would afterward reconvene the G8 nations, which include Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States, for further discussion.
If Iran does not carry out a full, verified suspension of enrichment, the European trio would join the United States in calling for the Islamic Republic to be taken to the Security Council, the paper said.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.