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Iranian Offer Falls Short

Tehran, in a rather comical bid to soothe the West, has announced it will open the doors of its nuclear facilities to tourists.
By Stefan Nicola
UPI Germany Correspondent
Berlin (UPI) Oct 04 2006
Iran has proposed that France should help enrich uranium inside Iran, a move that has been met with suspicion in the West. "There is nothing substantive behind it," a senior French official on the condition of anonymity told the New York Times. "This is not the first time the Iranians have tried to divide the international community."

Mohammad Saeidi, the deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, had told a French radio station Tuesday that Iran was ready to be more flexible to relieve the deadlock over its controversial nuclear program.

"In order to reach a solution, we've just had an idea: We propose that France create a consortium for the production in Iran of enriched uranium," Saeidi said.

He added that Iran's uranium enrichment activities could be organized and monitored by French-based nuclear energy companies Eurodif and Areva.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Cairo Wednesday, said the idea of a consortium "has been around for a while" and was most likely "a stalling technique because we don't want to get to the basic issue which is that Iran has to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing in order to begin negotiations."

"It's now a month past August 31. The Iranians have had plenty of time to find a way to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing."

The international community has been frustrated by Tehran's unwillingness to halt its uranium enrichment program, which can be used to produce civil energy or make a nuclear bomb.

Tehran has repeatedly denied wanting to acquire the bomb, but the West mistrusts the Iranian leadership, especially after overly aggressive rhetoric from its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

While the Iranian move marks the first time in months that Iran has come forward and made a proposal on its own -- rather than brushing away the West's numerous compromise offers -- experts have doubted its honest intentions.

"One would have to analyze the offer in greater detail, I suppose," Erwin Haeckel, Iran expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Bonn on Wednesday told United Press International. "But for the past months, maybe even years, the Iranian strategy has been to gain time, and I don't see this offer as different."

Washington meanwhile has urged its European negotiation partners -- Germany, France and Britain -- to up the pressure on the Islamic Republic and introduce a clear deadline before pushing for sanctions mandated by the U.N. Security Council.

"At some point, you have to draw the line," U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said in an interview with the Washington Times. "So I think you'll have the answer by the end of the week."

The Iranian move may be a sign that Tehran knows it has to act to avoid sanctions; the international community so far has been surprisingly close-knitted, with China and Russia now even mulling to agree to sanctions, albeit soft ones.

The idea of a consortium was first floated by the Europeans, who earlier this year offered a plan foreseeing Russia enriching uranium on its soil for Iran. Tehran did not accept that offer.

Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy expert, is growing increasingly tired over the negotiations, observers say.

"The Europeans are clueless right now, no one really knows what to do except proceeding with sanctions," Haeckel said.

Tehran, in a rather comical bid to soothe the West, has announced it will open the doors of its nuclear facilities to tourists.

Berlin, a key member of the negotiations, is not impressed. A foreign affairs spokesman Wednesday in Berlin told a news conference the German government was "increasingly worried" that Tehran still has not given the West a real answer. "The Iranian government must know: There is not much time left," he said.

Source: United Press International

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