EU, Iran play high stakes poker on enrichment

4th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 March 2005, VIENNA/TEHERAN - Iranian politicians are playing for ever higher stakes in their confrontation with the European Union over uranium enrichment, almost daily upping the ante. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has announced that his country will need "up to 20 atomic power stations, each with a generating capacity of 1,000 megawatts". Iran would thus not under any circumstances give up on producing the necessary fuel, he said. And Teheran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in V

4 March 2005

VIENNA/TEHERAN - Iranian politicians are playing for ever higher stakes in their confrontation with the European Union over uranium enrichment, almost daily upping the ante.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has announced that his country will need "up to 20 atomic power stations, each with a generating capacity of 1,000 megawatts". Iran would thus not under any circumstances give up on producing the necessary fuel, he said.

And Teheran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Sirus Nasserie, said that uranium enrichment was "non- negotiable". Teheran intended in future to manufacture nuclear fuel in quantities for making available to other countries, he said.

This is completely unacceptable to Britain, France and Germany, who are negotiating with Teheran on behalf of the EU and who see these statements as nothing more than high-stakes poker ahead of a round of talks next week in Geneva.

"In Teheran they know full well that their planned uranium enrichment is acceptable to no one," EU diplomats said on the sidelines of an IAEA conference this week in Vienna.

"Luckily, the EU, the United States and Russia are all pulling together on this one," they said.

Iran's controversial uranium enrichment programme has been the subject of investigation by the United Nations atomic energy body for more than two years.

The US and other countries have accused Teheran of working on a nuclear weapon. Iran has been trying for the past 20 years to acquire the technology to enrich uranium for use in reactor fuel rods and also to the higher grade required for nuclear weapons.

Few believe Iran's claim that this is for "purely peaceful reasons".

The EU has succeeded in pushing its position of negotiations that would lead Teheran to renounce enrichment permanently in exchange for economic advantages, including possible membership of the World Trade Organization.

Political concessions, such as increased recognition for the controversial theocratic government in Teheran, are also being offered to induce Iran to give up its enrichment programme and to adopt a less aggressive stance towards Israel.

Since the recent visit by President George W. Bush to Europe, the US is also supporting the talks led by the EU trio, even if Washington remains sceptical of a successful outcome.

This is vital, as considerable parts of the planned economic deal with Iran would otherwise not be possible - such as the delivery of Airbus passenger planes with engines from the US.

But Teheran is interpreting an agreement struck with the EU in Paris in November in its own way. It regards the deal to suspend its enrichment programme as valid only until March, after which the situation will be evaluated ahead of a decision in the longer term.

"We do not expect a final agreement until 17 March," Iran's nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani said, adding that Teheran was looking for positive indications that would lead to further negotiations.

The Europeans are also aware that they need to offer Teheran something more substantial that can be sold to the hawks in Teheran if the talks are to succeed.

EU diplomats are not ruling the possibility that the talks could fail.

"We do not know what role ideas like national honour, face-saving and pride might play in the negotiations," they said in Vienna this week.

But failure would be unsatisfactory for both sides. Iran would only stand to gain from a positive outcome.

"Failure means that Iran would be brought before the Security Council, face sanctions and possibly even military action," the diplomats said. 

DPA

Subject: German news 

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