Monday, August 01, 2005

Diplomacy has run its course

Iran to resume enriching uranium today

Times Online - Iran says that it is going to break UN seals on a nuclear plant today and resume work enriching uranium that the West fears could help it to build an atom bomb.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Authority, the UN nuclear watchdog, begged Tehran not to carry out its threat, for fear of jeopardising negotiations that have dragged on for two years.

Iran’s announcement was a setback to efforts by Britain, Germany and France, which have been negotiating with Tehran in an attempt to persuade Iran to drop its enrichment program in return for incentives.

The three European countries have been trying to mediate between the United States, which insists Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons, and the Islamic Republic, which says it has a right to develop peaceful atomic technology.

"Iran sent a letter to the IAEA. Iran is to remove the seals today," Supreme National Security Council spokesman Ali Aghamohammadi told reporters.

In its letter to the IAEA, Tehran said its "sincere efforts and maximum flexibility" were being answered with an EU proposal that it rejected as "totally unacceptable."

"The proposal not only fails to address Iran’s rights for peaceful development of nuclear technology, but even falls far short of correcting the illegal and unjustified restrictions placed on Iran’s economic and technological development, let alone providing firm guarantees for economic, technological and nuclear cooperation and firm commitments on security issues," the Iranians said.

The conversion plant near the central city of Isfahan turns uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride gas. The gas is pumped into centrifuges spinning at supersonic speed to enrich uranium.

Highly enriched uranium can be used for nuclear bombs. Uranium enriched at low levels is used as fuel in nuclear power plants.

The IAEA urged Iran not to resume its frozen nuclear work.

"I call on Iran to continue the negotiation process with the E3/EU and not to take any action that might prejudice the process at this critical stage," IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei said in a statement, referring to the so-called EU3 of Britain, Germany and France.

Yesterday the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that if Iran were to resume its uranium conversion programme, talks between Tehran and the EU would probably be halted.

The next step may see Britain referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council, followed by sanctions and a stand-off between the US and Iran. In its statement the Foreign Office said that if Iran does not back down it will consult the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before acting.

The Iranians suspended their nuclear programme last November in accordance with IAEA resolutions and the “Paris Agreement” with the EU3 last November. Today, the EU said if Iran resumed work at Isfahan, it would break the Paris agreement.