Tehran (UPI) Nov 16, 2005
Despite announcing it was open to offers on its disputed nuclear program, Iran has insisted it will not accept a compromise on the issue that involves uranium enrichment activities being conducted outside the country.
"Enrichment should be carried out on Iranian soil, as other Iranian officials have already said," the country's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi said earlier this week.
In a meeting in Tehran Monday with Russia's Igor Ivanov, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh, spelled out the same position, giving rise to confusion over previous reports Iran was willing to consider a compromise proposal meant to resolve the stand-off over its nuclear program.
Under the proposal, reportedly being considered also by the European Union and the United States, Iran would be allowed to carry out an initial step in making nuclear fuel -- converting uranium ore into the uranium hexafluoride gas -- but with the enrichment being done in Russia.
Media reports quoted Nikolai Shingaryov, spokesman for the Russia's atomic energy agency, Rosatom, as saying Moscow was prepared to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory, adding the country first made the offer in June, but got no official response from Iran.
"As far as I know there is no such proposal (on enrichment)," Asefi said, when talking about Ivanov's visit to the country.
But, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied on Thursday the United States and Europe had agreed on any proposal.
She dismissed a report in The New York Times of a joint effort to head off a confrontation over the suspicions of a nuclear weapons program.
"There is no U.S.-European proposal to the Iranians. I want to say that categorically," Rice told reporters. "There isn't and there won't be. We are not parties to these negotiations and we don't intend to become parties to the negotiations."
The Times said Washington agreed with Britain, France and Germany, which are negotiating with Iran on behalf of the European Union, to make a last-ditch offer that would allow Tehran to maintain very small-scale nuclear activities.
In an exclusive interview with the Iranian state news agency IRNA, Gary Samore, former national security adviser to President Clinton, was quoted as having welcomed the "uranium compromise" offer being made to Iran but suggesting it could take years to negotiate because of its complexities.
"In fact, Iran had a similar arrangement with a French enrichment company during the days of the Shah, the so called Eurodif arrangement, and that took years to negotiate," Samore said.
"So if Iran wants it can put the discussions with Russian experts for weeks, months and even years before reaching a final decision about whether a proposal is acceptable," he said.
"I think it is an excellent proposal, but I am skeptical that the proposal would be accepted by the Iranian government," said Samore, who is now vice president of Global Security and Sustainability at the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation.
He, however, believes if Iran says no to the proposal then the U.S. and Europeans will be in a strong position to press Russia to refer Iran to the Security Council at this month's IAEA board meeting.
"For purely tactical reasons, the Iranian government may wish to have further discussions with Russia to study the proposal before making a decision about whether they will accept it."
Russia, involved in the construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant at the southern port city of Bushehr, has generally backed Iran's plans to develop an atomic energy industry, but the United States alleged the effort is a cover to develop weapons, charges Tehran roundly denies.
Countries from the Non-Aligned Movement have also offered their support to Iran and its right to peaceful nuclear technology.
Cuba, Malaysia and South Africa "insist that the necessary respect be accorded to countries, particularly Iran, which decide to peacefully use nuclear technology," a statement from the NAM troika said.
"Ministers from the three non-aligned countries urge European parties to respond positively to the Iranian initiative aimed at resuming negotiations," it further said.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has demanded Iran return to a full freeze of enrichment-related activities and resume negotiations with Britain, France and Germany.
The agency's 35- nation board of governors is to meet on Nov. 24 and could theoretically refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions. The nuclear watchdog in September found Iran in non-compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, paving the way for the matter to be referred to the council.
In a letter to the foreign ministers of the three European countries last week, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, offered fresh talks with the EU3, but stayed unyielding on Iran's "certain and indisputable right to have access to full nuclear fuel cycle." The letter said this right was "explicit and unambiguous" under the NPT.
The talks collapsed in August when Iran resumed uranium conversion, suspended last November, at a facility in Isfahan in central Iran, however, keeping the crucial final step of enriching uranium suspended. The EU leaders had already hinted Iran must stop all enrichment-related activities if talks were to resume.
In the letter also, Larijani pointed out that his country had allowed wider U.N. nuclear inspections, honoring an additional protocol to the NPT.
A diplomat close to the IAEA said Friday initial results from an inspection of the Parchin military site in southeast Tehran -- an explosives center at which Washington charges Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons -- show no sign of nuclear activity.
Also the IAEA, through interviews with some Iranian experts on the field, has got some additional information on the history of Iran's centrifuge program, thus meeting part of its demands for Iran to be more cooperative.
But, despite these "very positive developments," as Samore has called, Iran's Larijani issued a blunt warning Tuesday to the U.N. watchdog, saying more pressure on Tehran over its controversial nuclear activities would have "consequences."
Quoted by the ISNA news agency, he said a Security Council referral "would have consequences on Iran's cooperation, and would not be good for Iran's cooperation."
"If they put too much pressure on Iran, Iran will be forced to work differently," he said.
Larijani also said that if the IAEA "bases its work on legal and technical considerations", the next report by the agency's director Mohammed ElBaradei "will be positive" for Tehran.
Some diplomats have said ElBaradei's status report, expected later this week, would be more upbeat than the one that prompted the IAEA board to pass a resolution in September requiring that Iran be reported to the Security Council at a later unspecified date.
"We expect the (new) report to be very short ... there will be positive elements in it. Iran permitted the IAEA to visit Parchin (military test site) and early results show no signs of nuclear materials," said one EU diplomat.
"More tests have to be done, though."
Analysts say Iran has provided mixed reactions to a proposal of doing part of its fuel cycle outside the country. While it says it would never surrender its right to uranium enrichment, it has, nevertheless, shown clear signs of willingness to consider any such initiative.
"What is important for Iran is to enrich (uranium) on its soil," Larijani was quoted by Iran's local news agencies as saying. He, however, added he had not received any formal proposal for enrichment abroad, but if one was offered, "we will discuss it."
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Iran Starts New Round Of Uranium Conversion: Diplomats
Vienna (AFP) Nov 16, 2005
Iran on Wednesday started a new round of converting uranium ore into the feedstock gas for making enriched uranium, a move likely to complicate diplomacy over Iran's disputed nuclear program, diplomats said.
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