Wednesday, September 08, 2004

EU Business - Iran offers nuclear concessions but warns against pressure

EU Business - Iran offers nuclear concessions but warns against pressure: "Iran offers nuclear concessions but warns against pressure

08 September 2004
ATTENTION -more details, background ///
Iran confirmed Wednesday it had offered new concessions in talks with the Europan Union on its controversial nuclear programme, but warned of a "response" if the Europeans and the UN's atomic watchdog again took a tough line against the Islamic republic.

"If the Europeans do not respect their commitments or present an illogical or harsh resolution, Iran has already decided its response," top national security official Hassan Rowhani was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.

Rowhani confirmed Iran was in talks with the EU ahead of a September 13 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with one concession on the table being a renewed suspension on the assembly of centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

"There are important questions and it is too early to talk," said Rowhani, a conservative cleric and the regime's nuclear negotiator.

On Tuesday, diplomats at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna said Iran was ready again to suspend its efforts to assemble centrifuges in order to avoid being brought before the UN Security Council.

But speculation that an imminent accord could be reached have been dampened by a heavy dose of scepticism among some IAEA members. The IAEA's executive board of governors is due to begin meeting on September 13.

Britain, Germany and France have been negotiating with the aim of getting Iran to "fully suspend any uranium enrichment activities, including making any components for centrifuges," a Western diplomat told AFP in Vienna.

Enriched uranium can be used to provide fuel for reactors as well as nuclear warheads.

The diplomat said the negotiations began several days ago and have moved between different European capitals. But there was weariness over the latest promise of a last-minute concession.

"The Iranians have in their normal way just before the pressure really gets too much.. come with another offer," a European diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

"It just looks like they are offering something so that when it comes to the board next week they are able to tell us that they have done something to try to meet us half-way."

The Islamic republic this summer resumed the production of centrifuges, in reaction to a critical resolution adopted by the IAEA board of governors after its last review of the Iran dossier in June.

At the beginning of September, Tehran also announced that it planned to convert 37 tonnes of "yellow cake" uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas, an element necessary for the enrichment of uranium.

Nuclear experts have said that such a large amount could in theory be used to make one or more nuclear warheads.

Rowhani, in high-level talks in the Netherlands -- the current holder of the EU presidency -- on Monday denied that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons but said it would not abandon its programme to develop nuclear power for civilian purposes.

The United States accuses Iran of covertly trying to develop a nuclear bomb and has sought to have the IAEA refer Tehran to the Security Council for possible sanctions.

Tehran maintains that it is merely trying to meet increasing domestic energy demands and free up its vast oil and gas reserves for export.

But the issue of enrichment -- and the wider nuclear fuel cycle -- is at the heart of international concerns.

Nuclear fuel cycle work for peaceful purposes is permitted under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but there are worries Iran could master this and then easily shift it towards military purposes."

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