Iran, EU to meet on resuming nuclear dialogue
VIENNA (AFP) Dec 20, 2005
Iran and the European Union are to meet Wednesday to try to break a deadlock over Tehran's insistence on its right to make nuclear fuel, which the West says could be used to make atom bombs.
European and Western diplomats fear the meeting in Vienna of foreign ministry political directors from Britain, France and Germany and Iranian National Security Council official Javad Vaidi will be all but futile because of Iran's increasingly hard line over its nuclear program.
But an EU diplomat told AFP that the Europeans were ready to be "realistic and distinguish between what is desirable and what is possible," namely by accepting some fuel cycle work while drawing the line at enrichment -- a process that can be extended to make the explosive core of a nuclear bomb.
Talks between Iran and the EU negotiating trio, the so-called EU-3, broke off in August when Iran resumed uranium conversion, the first step in enrichment.
Iran now says it will not back away from its right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to carry out enrichment, limiting chances for a compromise.
The EU-3, backed by the United States, argue that Iran cannot be trusted to carry out enrichment since this gives nations a "break-out capacity" to make nuclear weapons.
Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has raised concerns through a series of hardline statements against Israel, notably his remark in October that the Jewish state should be wiped off the map.
US President George W. Bush said Monday that Ahmadinejad's incendiary statements showed why it was "universally" accepted that Tehran should not have nuclear weapons.
"I fear that we'll just be going through the motions when we meet with the Iranians," said a diplomat from one of the EU-3 states.
Wednesday's talks will aim to find a way to re-start formal negotiations on winning guarantees that Iran will not seek nuclear weapons.
A total breakdown in Wednesday's meeting would likely spark a push by the Europeans and the United States to send the issue to the UN Security Council -- which could impose sanctions.
Iran has already vowed to retaliate for such a step by resuming uranium enrichment -- suspended since October 2003 -- and limiting International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said in Tehran that his country would make new proposals in Vienna, whcih might be Ahmadinejad's standing offer for foreign firms to be involved in enrichment on Iranian soil as a form of supervision.
The Europeans, however, have other ideas.
They want to push a Russian proposal that would allow Iran to conduct much of the fuel cycle at home while enriching its uranium only on Russian soil -- thus keeping the most sensitive nuclear work out of the country.
Iran has already rejected this proposal.
"The real diplomatic work at the moment is trying to bring the Russians on board so we can take this to the Security Council," an EU-3 diplomat said.
Russia, which has a veto on the Council, is almost certain to resist this pressure.
Moscow is building Iran's first nuclear power reactor.
Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service said Monday that it was unaware of any attempt by Iran to develop nuclear weapons, Interfax news agency reported in Moscow.
Washington however charges that Iran's civilian nuclear program to generate electricity is a cover for developing atomic weapons.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.