Iran pessimistic ahead of last-ditch nuclear talks
TEHRAN (AFP) May 16, 2005
Iran warned Monday that an emergency meeting next week with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany may have little chance of resolving mounting tensions over its nuclear programme.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said the May 23 talks may prove to be the "last round of negotiations" between Iran and the so-called EU-3, insisting that Iran has already decided to resume controversial uranium activities.
"The meeting will be held on May 23" and involve the three European foreign ministers and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, Kharazi told reporters.
"It will take place in a European capital. We are still in discussions on the venue."
Britain, France and Germany called a crisis meeting with Iran after Tehran announced it would resume uranium conversion work, a move that would have violated a November 2004 accord on freezing nuclear fuel work and opening long-term talks.
Iran was also warned that breaking the deal would spark its referral to the UN Security Council.
Iran has agreed to hold off from resuming uranium conversion -- a precursor to the ultra-sensitive enrichment process -- pending the emergency talks with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
But quoted by the Iran News newspaper, a top nuclear negotiator and member of Iran's Supreme National Security Council said there was a strong chance the talks could fail.
"I confirm that a meeting at the foreign ministerial level between the EU-3 and Iran will be held in a few days time in Brussels, but I want to emphasise that the chances for success are not that high," Hossein Moussavian said in an interview with the paper.
"The Europeans haven't left much room for negotiation. They have gone back on their word and commitments made in the Paris Accord. The EU-3 have not accepted Iran's 'objective guarantees'," he added.
"If Iran's file is referred to the UN Security Council, we are ready for all contingencies," said Moussavian.
The EU has offered Iran a package of incentives in return for "objective guarantees" it will not develop weapons -- hoping to strike a deal similar to that which the United States and Britain reached with Libya.
This would involve Iran dismantling its nuclear fuel facilities in exchange for increased trade and diplomatic and security benefits.
But Iran insists its bid to master the full nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment, is merely aimed at generating electricity and a "right" for any country that has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The stand-off worsened after the EU-3 last month rejected an Iranian proposal to begin a phased resumption of enrichment. Iran complained the talks were being deliberately dragged out to keep the freeze in place.
The United States in particular believes Iran is merely using atomic energy as a convenient cover for weapons development, a charge Tehran denies.
Feeling the international pressure over Iran's nuclear programme, the Islamic republic's state television network has meanwhile embarked on giving the Iranian public a crash course in the joys of atomic power.
In a series of primetime spots entitled "Towards Tomorrow", viewers are informed how Iran mines and converts uranium.
But keeping true to Iran's assertion it only wants to light up homes, state television is drumming home the message of "nuclear electricity, sustainable development and enrichment."
Viewers are also shown male and female scientists in green or white overalls, while animated graphics and video footage helping to explain the science behind Iran's extensive nuclear drive.
"Acquiring this technology is an important and praiseworthy, and deserves to be deservedly guarded," the infomercials assert, without referring to the EU and US demands that the work be abandoned.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.