Iran steps back in nuclear face-off with EU

4th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 August 2005, TEHRAN - Iran agreed Wednesday under pressure from the European Union to delay its controversial plan to resume work at the Isfahan nuclear facility as the nuclear face-off between the two sides entered a new phase.

4 August 2005

TEHRAN - Iran agreed Wednesday under pressure from the European Union to delay its controversial plan to resume work at the Isfahan nuclear facility as the nuclear face-off between the two sides entered a new phase.

Iran's outgoing chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said that the country would wait for the E.U.'s proposal, including political and economic incentives, to be submitted to Iran on Friday for evaluation by the country's leaders.

Rowhani also said that Iran would wait for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to arrive before reopening the Isfahan plant, which he predicted could become operational by the weekend.

The Vienna-based IAEA, however, said it could not have its surveillance equipment in place before the middle of next week.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department welcomed the move, but also warned that Iran was obligated to keep its moratorium on uranium enrichment.

"It certainly is a positive thing that the steps that the Iranians had previously suggested they would take have not occurred," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

Tehran first announced it was going ahead with the reopening of the plant immediately - but a few hours later, signalled that negotiations on the plant would continue with the IAEA.

A spokesman for the E.U. Commission said in Brussels that relations with Iran had reached "a critical point".

"This week will be decisive for relations between the E.U. and Iran," he said.

The E.U. threatened to break off talks with Tehran on a comprehensive bilateral agreement if the plant begins operating again.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday called on Ahmadinejad decisively to fight for the national interests of the country but to beware of "hasty decisions".

"Especially in foreign relations, hastiness is not suitable and some issues need more time," Khamenei said.

In his first speech as president, Ahmadinejad called for the removal of all atomic weapons in the world but refrained from referring to the ongoing nuclear dispute.

The E.U.'s foreign relations representative Javier Solano reiterated that a resumption of work at Isfahan is equivalent to breaking the November 2004 Paris Accord.

In an article for the economics magazine Capital, Solano wrote that Ahmadinejad had a "strategic choice to follow a path further into isolation or to decide for international cooperation and enjoy the fruits it would bear".

According to the IAEA, Brussels had not requested a special meeting of the IAEA governing council on Iran which could pass the case on from the member states to the U.N. Security Council. But on Tuesday, Britain, France and Germany's foreign ministers said they would call for an emergency IAEA board of governor's meeting and may refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council, which could decide on sanctions against Iran.

Rowhani said Wednesday that only uranium conversion would take place in the Isfahan plant.

Uranium enrichment, the process the E.U. fears could be used to make atomic weapons, was planned at the Natanz plant, also in central Iran, after coordination with the E.U.

The Iranian official also branded the option of bringing the Iran case to the U.N. Security Council as a "merely political move", saying that no country can be punished for pursuing peaceful nuclear activities.

Rowhani, who is also secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), said that a breakthrough with the E.U. was "very near and could have been realized". He did not elaborate.

Rowhani confirmed that he will withdraw as both chief nuclear negotiator and SNSC secretary. He also anticipated that the nuclear delegation members would change under new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Earlier Wednesday, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization deputy Mohammad Saaidi told ISNA news agency that Iran had asked the IAEA to enable a timely opening of the Isfahan plant.

Saaidi indicated that Iran would not make any unilateral moves in reopening the plant.

Diplomats from the three countries negotiating with Iran - Germany, France and Britain - rated the chances of an agreement with Iran as "difficult" as there were "so many conflicting statements".

Iran's behaviour was "unnecessary and incomprehensible", they said Wednesday.

The E.U. offer of cooperation with Iran is "good", the European diplomats said, and after such lengthy negotiations, Iran should give itself a couple of days' time to look over the proposal and not wreck what had been a successful process to date.

If Iran breaks agreements now, there would be a question mark over the whole process, they said.


Subject: German news

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