Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - November 29, 2004 [EST] -- Iran Backs Away From Demands on A-Bomb Fuel
Posted on 11/28/2004 9:12:23 PM PST by DoctorZIn
Top News Story
Iran Backs Away From Demands on A-Bomb Fuel
By ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: November 29, 2004
ARIS, Nov. 28 - Iran on Sunday backed off a demand to operate uranium enrichment equipment that could be used either for energy purposes or in a nuclear bomb-making project, European and Iranian officials said.
The Iranian retreat appeared to salvage a nuclear agreement reached Nov. 15 between Iran and France, Britain and Germany to freeze all of Iran's uranium enrichment, conversion and reprocessing activities.
It also paves the way for the 35 countries that make up the ruling board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based United Nations nuclear monitoring body, to pass a resolution that will be only mildly critical of Iran's nuclear program.
Such a resolution, expected to be passed Monday, is certain to disappoint the Bush administration, which is convinced that despite Iran's denials, it has a covert program to build nuclear bombs, not simply to produce energy. The administration had wanted much tougher language in the resolution.
Iran's suspected nuclear ambition has become a leading source of worry in the Bush administration, which has said it will not allow Iran's Islamic republic, with its avowed hostility to the United States, to attain nuclear weapons or even develop a comprehensive peaceful nuclear energy program. In Washington, reports of a new accord with Iran brought expressions of caution from the Bush administration, which has been skeptical about the European efforts to negotiate with Iran.
"We've seen this kind of commitment from Iran before," a State Department official said. "We'll be looking to see whether they stick with what they agree to do. In the past they haven't, so follow-up is very important."
The retreat came in the form of a letter from Iran on Sunday to the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the letter, Iran withdrew its demand to operate 20 centrifuges - uranium enrichment machines - for research and development purposes.
"Iran will permit the I.A.E.A. to place these centrifuges under agency surveillance," said Hossein Mousavian, the chief Iranian negotiator, in a telephone interview from Vienna. "Iran will not conduct any testing."
Asked specifically whether the machines would be turned off, as the Europeans have demanded, Mr. Mousavian said, "We say Iran will not conduct any testing," adding that the matter of Iran's desire to continue research will be discussed when Iran and the European countries begin talks in the coming weeks on possible economic, technological and political incentives for Iran under the European agreement.
After the letter was received, the three European countries formally submitted a draft resolution on Iran to the United Nations agency, said Mark Gwozdecky, the agency's spokesman.
The I.A.E.A. is expected to certify Monday that Iran has frozen its entire program as defined by the agreement with the Europeans.
That will allow the agency's board to pass the resolution on Iran on Monday as well. Unlike the United Nations Security Council, where 5 of the 15 member countries have veto power, the I.A.E.A.'s board generally operates by consensus.
The Bush administration has been continually frustrated in its efforts to persuade the atomic energy agency to punish Iran for its nuclear activities. The three European countries have rejected a flurry of American proposals for a harshly worded resolution against Iran.
The breakthrough between the Europeans and Iran came after Iran suggested a change in the resolution that would more specifically reflect the positive step Iran was taking in suspending its enrichment program, both Mr. Mousavian and a senior European official said. In exchange, Iran abandoned its demand to operate the centrifuges for research.
Mr. Mousavian said the 20 centrifuge machines would not be sealed but placed under camera surveillance, a face-saving move that the I.A.E.A. said would be acceptable in terms of its monitoring capacity.
In another face-saving gesture, the Iranians said in their letter to the agency on Sunday that there would be no "testing," rather than no "research and development."
But a senior European official involved in the negotiations said that under the new arrangement, "The machines will not rotate an inch."
Despite its softer language, the resolution to be adopted Monday calls for continuing investigations into sensitive aspects of Iran's nuclear program.
The resolution also mentions "many breaches of Iran's obligations to comply" with international nuclear safeguards but notes Iran has taken "corrective measures" since beginning to disclose parts of its atomic program in October 2003.
Mr. Mousavian said Iran won a crucial change to reflect the fact that the freeze of its enrichment program was "not legally binding."
As a signer of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has the legal right to enrich uranium, and the Iranian delegation made the point repeatedly during the negotiations that its country's suspension of its uranium enrichment program was voluntary.
In Tehran on Sunday, Hamid Reza Assefi, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Iran hoped the issue would be resolved at the atomic energy agency. Nonetheless, he struck a defiant tone.
"We are not worried about going to the Security Council," he said. "It is not the end of the world. But we would prefer it be sorted out in the framework of the agency."
There is no national security debate inside Iran that is more intense than over the country's nuclear program, from the highest levels of government to Parliament and the street.
Iranians of all political stripes hold fast to the principle of Iran's sovereign right to conduct whatever activities it deems necessary to develop a peaceful program to produce energy, and the agreement with the Europeans has been wildly unpopular inside Iran.
Iran had agreed in negotiations with the Europeans two weeks ago to suspend all uranium enrichment activities. But that agreement was put in jeopardy last week when Iran demanded that it be allowed to operate centrifuges for research purposes. That demand came in two letters to the International Atomic Energy Agency from Iran's atomic energy agency, whose hard-liners oppose any concessions to outsiders.
But Iran misread the Europeans. At first, the Iranian delegation tried to argue that the centrifuge issue was only a technical matter. Iranian negotiators pointed out that after Iran had reached its first nuclear deal with the Europeans in October 2003, it continued to operate 10 centrifuges for research purposes and both the Europeans and the agency went along.
"With that history and everyone's agreement, we couldn't imagine that a few centrifuges would become a worldwide issue this time," Mr. Mousavian said.
But that first deal with the Europeans fell apart. Iran decided that the Europeans were stalling on delivering promised incentives and interpreted the agreement broadly to continue some uranium enrichment-related activities.
The Europeans were accused of naïveté by some hawks in the Bush administration, and have become less trusting of Iran. This time around, the Europeans negotiated a more precise deal and took an uncompromising no-exceptions line when the centrifuge issue was raised.
Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran for this article, and Steven R. Weisman from Washington.
DoctorZin Note: First, let hope they actually turn off the centrifuges, not simply monitor them. See why here.
But something no one is talking about is Iran's heavy water reactor in Arak. The EU agreement ignores it. Read more about that here.
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A key role for Europe in US-Iran conflict[Excerpt]
BERLIN EUROPE's initiative to prevent a military confrontation between the United States and Iran represents a new coming of age in world affairs for a Europe often described as an economic giant but a geo-political dwarf. Nowhere is this more true than in Germany.
The European initiative, led by Germany, France, and Britain, would give Iran major economic benefits in exchange for the Iranians giving up their aspirations to become a nuclear power. Specifically, Tehran would get membership in the World Trade Organization, trade deals, security guarantees, and nuclear fuel for peaceful uses such as nuclear power generation.
A preliminary agreement in mid-November produced an Iranian commitment to suspend work on uranium enrichment, but a follow-up agreement is still to be negotiated, and nobody here expects a final deal until after the Iranian presidential election next year, since none of the candidates can afford politically to appear weak.
Any deal would need US approval, and Washington's view of the European initiative thus far has ranged from skeptical to contemptuous. The Bush administration believes, with good reason, that the Iranians have been lying about their nuclear program. Officials consider the Europeans naive. The more hawkish officials in the administration want "regime change" or a "surgical strike" against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Both options, however, will be far more difficult than in Iraq, since Iranian nuclear facilities are both dispersed and hardened, and since President Bush has just about run out of US ground troops in the Iraq occupation.
German officials point out that their Iran initiative is a breakthrough, since for the first time in recent memory the leading European powers are both united and proactive, as well as independent from Washington, on a major issue that threatens the peace.
Yet everyone I spoke with here took pains to point out that this initiative is not seen as an effort to have Europe outflank the United States, and there is sober concern about Iran playing off the United States against Europe. "In the end, this will be successful only if the United States goes along," said one senior Iran expert.
Another official told me, "There is no popular support here or anywhere in Europe, for Europe to be a counterweight to the United States." Rather, German officials see their role as demonstrating that there are diplomatic alternatives to a repeat of US Iraq policy in Iran.
Officials here are also sensitive to the American charge that European leaders are naive about what can be negotiated with Iran. "We accept that the Iranians are likely to try to cheat," a member of parliament close to the government told me." He added, "Even so, a agreement would buy time and would put in place a monitoring system that would make it less likely that Iran would cheat."
If the agreement does break down, this official adds, then Europe would have no choice but to join the United States in economic sanctions against Iran, but would try to discourage the Bush administration from pursuing a military option or seeking Security Council action that the Russians and Chinese would likely oppose.
American diplomats have long argued that nothing major happened on the world stage unless the United States orchestrated it. Even in the Balkan crisis of the mid-1990s, it took American leadership to deal with war and genocide right in Europe's backyard.
The only two notable exceptions were Chancellor Willy Brandt's efforts more than two decades ago to engage the Soviet Union and East Germany and British and French diplomatic efforts that helped produce the deal to trade an end for Libyan terrorism for an end to economic and diplomatic sanctions. Washington at first reacted to both of these initiatives with great unease.
European involvement in world affairs beyond continental borders has been welcomed by Washington only when Europe served as a junior partner to American designs -- as most of Europe refused to do in Iraq.
Against this background, what's noteworthy about the Iran initiative is that it represents an effort both to mend fences with Washington and to demonstrate that Europe can play a more proactive role that serves a common US-European purpose, in this case lowering tensions in the Middle East. ...
For now, the Bush administration is neither encouraging nor blocking Europe's efforts with Iran. This is not quite a deliberate good cop/bad cop routine, though European leaders would be quite happy with that outcome.
Given the sheer unreality of US policy in the Middle East, one can only welcome this brand of European activism in world affairs -- and hope that the Bush administration, despite its conceit that America is the world's only superpower, grasps the benefits.
Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.
Iran Apparently Agrees to Stop Enrichment
Iran Apparently Has Agreed to a Full Freeze of Its Uranium Enrichment Programs, Diplomats Say
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, right, talks with Iraqi Vice-President, Ibrahim al-Jafari, during their official meeting in Tehran, Iran, Saturday Nov. 27, 2004. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
The Associated Press
VIENNA, Austria Nov 28, 2004 Backing down before a deadline, Iran apparently has given up its demand to exempt some equipment from a deal freezing uranium enrichment programs that can make nuclear weapons, diplomats said Sunday.
Diplomats from the European Union and elsewhere said the International Atomic Energy Agency received a letter containing a pledge not to test some centrifuges during the freeze.
The pledge appeared to resolve a dispute that threatened to escalate into possible referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council for defying the IAEA board. The Security Council could then impose sanctions against Iran.
But the diplomats told The Associated Press the letter still needed close examination to determine what exactly the Iranians had agreed to.
Only if the Iranians agreed to totally suspend enrichment including all use of the centrifuges would the dispute be resolved, they said.
Iran's Conservatives Consolidate Power[Excerpt]
Critics Fear Reform Movement Will Be Shut Down, Restrictions Broadened
By Robin WrightWashington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 29, 2004; Page A10
International treaties, he said, do not prevent nuclear proliferation. After India conducted a nuclear test, the United States imposed sanctions, only to lift them and deepen ties when U.S. interests shifted. "Such a situation urges us to have a nuclear bomb," Shariatmadari said.
TEHRAN -- After eight years of a bold but bungled experiment with reform, Iran's government is in the throes of a takeover by conservatives determined to restore the revolution's Islamic purity, according to Iranian politicians and analysts.
The transformation is symbolized by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose limited scholarly credentials were questioned even by his peers when he was selected 15 years ago. ...
Today, however, they said, Khamenei is more powerful than at any time since 1989, when he succeeded the leader of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Critics said his control is as far-reaching as that of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi before he was overthrown in 1979.
"The pendulum has swung. Khamenei is in a better position than he's ever been," a senior Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the subject. "There's a real cockiness in the stride of his camp."
Khamenei's consolidation of power, partly through a new parliament that took office in May, has given even more leverage to religious institutions, including the judiciary, the Revolutionary Guards and vigilante groups such as Ansar Hezbollah, analysts said.
As a result, fear, intimidation and harassment have become instruments of the state in ways reminiscent of the early fervor following the 1979 revolution, Iranians complain. Women can still get away with relaxed dress, but the debates over political openings and reforming Islam have gone behind closed doors, or ended.
Conservatives say they are merely putting the Islamic republic back on course and restoring limits on discourse while not undoing social change.
"Islamic values in all aspects of the system are necessary to sustain the system. . . . And nobody can change them according to his taste or interpretation," said Hussein Shariatmadari, a leading ideologue and editor of the Kayhan newspaper chain.
"For instance, it is not important that women wear the chador or wear light colors or dark colors, but they should wear decent hijab," or traditional veils, he added. "When we talk about Islamic values, that's what we mean. . . . Voting and higher education for women have not been forbidden."
But critics warn of a future with further restrictions, particularly after a presidential election next year that many Iranians expect conservatives to win.
"We are going to move from something trying to be a democratic government to what will become a totalitarian regime," said Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a reformist editor who has been jailed three times and who has worked for five newspapers that have been closed. "Conservatives think this democratization trend has to be stopped."
Beyond Khamenei, Iran's future is still far from settled. The big question in Tehran these days is about which conservatives will dominate. Their camp now offers at least four distinct philosophies about running the country and dealing with the outside world:
The ideological conservatives take the most puritanical line. They are sometimes called Kayhanis, after the newspapers that reflect their views. Shariatmadari, their editor, is the faction's most public voice. They take a tough stance in dealing with the outside world and on Iran's nuclear energy program.
Shariatmadari, a slight man with a neat salt-and-pepper beard who wields enormous influence, opposed a deal signed this month under pressure from Europe to suspend uranium enrichment for Iran's nuclear energy program, which critics say could be diverted for a nuclear weapons program. "I believe that we should have exited the Non-Proliferation Treaty two years ago," he said in an interview.
At the same time, he said, the production of a bomb would not be accepted under Islamic belief, in part because such a weapon does not distinguish between an enemy and innocent civilians, and also because it is not an effective deterrent. "If all countries have this technology, then the world will be in chaos," he said.
This faction generally opposes renewing ties with the United States. Despite smaller numbers, its adherents are disproportionately powerful because they are highly vocal and are backed by vigilante groups such as Ansar Hezbollah.
The new right, or neoconservatives, represent the most influential political faction. They have the largest presence in the new parliament, the judiciary and the powerful Guardian Council, a body of 12 unelected clerics that can veto new laws and political candidates.
They include leading candidates for Iran's presidency, such as Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister, and Ali Larijani, the chief of state broadcasting. Both are close to Khamenei.
The neoconservative platform mixes religious ideology with aspects of modernity. "Conservatism means conserving the letter and spirit of the constitution," said Mohammed Javad Larijani, an analyst and brother of the presidential contender.
This camp emphasizes Islamic thought, competent government and the private sector. "Jobs should be created by increasing production. We shouldn't create jobs by making government fatter than it is," he added.
This faction also developed a reluctant consensus on the deal with the Europeans to suspend uranium enrichment, analysts said. Its terms for reengaging with the United States, however, are tough.
The pragmatic conservatives, once the most prominent faction, include former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and parties such as the Moderation and Development Party and the Servants of Construction. They are not bound by a rigid ideology, analysts said.
"They want to open up the economy, work within the established world order and culturally they're more relaxed," said Nasser Hadian, a political scientist at Tehran University.
The traditional conservatives are represented by the Shiite clergy, many of whom live in the holy city of Qom. Many tend to be less political, and are often secluded and focused more on Islamic culture. This faction also includes many bazaar merchants.
Although the largest group, it is now the least active in politics, analysts said.
Dan Darling's Thoughts on the Al Qaeda in Iran
Iran said on Sunday that is has never allowed any terrorists to cross into Iraq from its territory and offered its help to restore security in its neighbour, including the training of police and border guards. "Iran has never permitted the transit of terrorists to Iraq or any other country from its own territory," deputy interior minister Ali-Asghar Ahmadi told reporters two days before Iran is due to host a regional meeting on Iraq.
Iran has invited the interior ministers of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Egypt to the meeting here on Tuesday. "No leader of al-Qaeda is in Iran," added the minister, responding to frequent allegations from the United States that Iran has supported or harboured members of the militant network. The official also condemned the actions of an Iranian group that has been present at officially organised events to enlist volunteers for suicide operations in Iraq, Israel and elsewhere. "This is not legal," he said. "If the activity of these individuals stays theoretical, that is up to them, but if they move into action, we will prevent them. We cannot accept such things in Iran. The Islamic republic of Iran has never been and is not a place of activity for terrorist groups." He insisted that Iraqi officials "have never shown proof of the crossing of terrorists from Iran. Iran is ready to help train Iraqi police and border guards and cooperate with Iraq to control the border."
For his part, foreign ministry spokesperson Hamid Reza Asefi said the themes of the conference here would be "security, stabilisation and fighting terrorism. The Iraqi government has the basic responsibility to sort out its domestic situation. It is not enough to accuse others of infiltrating its borders. The main problem lies inside Iraq. It is the Iraqi governments responsibility to fight terrorism, although the neighbours should help."
11/28/04 Iran ready to train Iraqi police: official Tehran, Nov 28, IRNA -- An Iranian deputy interior minister announced Sunday Tehran's readiness to train Iraqi police and border guards as well as help with the country's reconstruction.
The announcement came as Iran prepared to host a two-day meeting of Iraq's neighbors on November 30 at interior minister level as part of efforts to restore security in the war-torn country.
The head of the meeting, Ali Asghar Ahmadi, who is Iran's Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs, stated that topics for discussion will be 'Iraq's situation, control of common borders, assistance to Iraqi border guards as well as cooperation among neighboring countries and the Iraqi government'.
He said the interior ministers of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt as well as a representative of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will participate at the meeting.
"The inaugural ceremonies of the meeting will be on the afternoon of Tuesday, and the meeting of the specialists and specialized roundtables will be held Wednesday in the presence of the interior ministers of Iraq and Egypt," Ahmadi added.
The official said bilateral as well as multilateral meetings will be held on the sidelines of the meeting, including with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
"The meeting will be wrapped up Wednesday with the release of a statement," he said, adding 'fighting terrorism' as well as 'emphasis on Iraq's independence and territorial integrity' are among the points incorporated into the draft document.
Ahmadi touched on bilateral issues of Iran and Iraq, including their security concerns because of terrorist activities inside the war-torn country, which he said would be tackled at the meeting.
He said Iranian border guards are currently in charge of guaranteeing security at the two countries' 1,609-kilometer common border.
"The Islamic Republic is ready to train Iraqi police and border guards and even equip them as well as help with the country's reconstruction," Ahmadi said.
"Cultural amenities among the Iranian and Iraqi nations, geographical closeness as well as the two countries' common interests and persuasion provide an even ground for Iran's participation in Iraq's reconstruction," he added.
The official reiterated Tehran's rebuttal of allegations that Iran sought to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs.
"The Islamic Republic, since the invasion and occupation of Iraq (by US-led forces) has announced that it does not accept this invasion.
"Iran has also indicated that it wants the issue of guaranteeing Iraq's security and the country's administration be left to the Iraqis," he said.
Ahmadi further rejected reports about alleged arrest of Iranian nationals for involvement in terrorist activities in Iraq, saying '(interrogation of) the arrested suspects has shown that there is no Iranian among them'.
The official also stressed the need for confronting all terrorist groups in Iraq, including the terrorist Iranian opposition Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO).
"Terrorist groups, including the Munafeqin (Iran's description of MKO which means hypocrites in Persian and Arabic) grouplet which has taken refuge in Iraq since the era of Saddam Hussein, must not be given chance of any activity in Iraq," Ahmadi said.
The MKO, classified as a terrorist organization by the US State Department as well as Europe, was reportedly dismantled in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq, but since then there have been increasing reports about clandestine cooperation between the group and the US intelligence.
Ahmadi reiterated Iran's willingness to increase cooperation with Iraq and expand the two countries' economic and trade ties.
"The Islamic Republic stresses the need for protecting Iraq's independence, territorial integrity and unity as well as leaving administration of the country to the Iraqis and avoiding interference in the country's domestic affairs."
The official further reiterated Tehran's call for withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and deployment of UN peacekeepers until general elections are held in that country.
Iran says it has never allowed terrorists to cross territoryAFP: 11/28/2004
TEHRAN, Nov 28 (AFP) - Iran said Sunday that is has never allowed any terrorists to cross into Iraq from its territory and offered its help to restore security in its neighbour, including the training of police and border guards.
"Iran has never permitted the transit of terrorists to Iraq or any other country from its own territory," deputy interior minister Ali-Asghar Ahmadi told reporters two days before Iran is due to host a regional meeting on Iraq.
Iran has invited the interior ministers of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Egypt to the meeting here Tuesday.
"No leader of Al-Qaeda is in Iran," added the minister, responding to frequent allegations from the United States that Iran has supported or harboured members of the militant network.
The official also condemned the actions of an Iranian group that has been present at officially-organised events to enlist volunteers for suicide operations in Iraq, Israel and elsewhere.
"This is not legal," he said. "If the activity of these individuals stays theoretical, that is up to them, but if they move into action, we will prevent them. We cannot accept such things in Iran."
"The Islamic republic of Iran has never been and is not a place of activity for terrorist groups," he insisted, adding that Iraqi officials "have never shown proof of the crossing of terrorists from Iran".
"Iran is ready to help train Iraqi police and border guards and cooperate with Iraq to control the border," he added.
For his part, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the themes of the conference here would be "security, stabilisation and fighting terrorism."
"The Iraqi government has the basic responsibility to sort out its domestic situation. It is not enough to accuse others of infiltrating its borders. The main problem lies inside Iraq. It is the Iraqi government's responsibility to fight terrorism, although the neighbours should help," he added.
11/28/2004 14:55 GMT - AFP
Iran warns of 'trouble' over Kazemi case
CTV.ca News Staff
An Iranian government spokesman has warned Canada's new ambassador will get into "trouble" if he pursues the Zahra Kazemi case.
"If anyone enters Iran on this mission they get themselves into trouble. This is a domestic issue of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Hamid Reza Asefi, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters on Sunday.
Kazemi, a photojournalist, was a Canadian citizen born in Iran.
The 56-year-old woman was taking photos outside a prison near Iran in July 2003 when authorities detained her.
A court exonerated the one official charged in her death and said her skull was fractured as the result of an accident. However, it cut the trial short and didn't hear a number of key witnesses.
Iran's handling of her case led Canada to recall its ambassador this past July -- considered a very strong diplomatic protest.
Gordon Venner is the new ambassador to Iran. In announcing Venner's appointment this past week, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said the Kazemi case remains a priority.
"Canada remains deeply committed to this case ... Justice denied is offensive to Canadians. This case will be pursued energetically," Pettigrew said Tuesday.
Asefi said Sunday the case was still open.
"It is nevertheless being followed up by the government and the judiciary, and I hope the rights of nobody, including those of the Kazemi family, are ignored," he said.
Part of the issue is that Iran doesn't recognize dual citizenship. It believes Canada has no say in the matter.
Pettigrew said another reason to appoint a new ambassador to Iran was growing world tension over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran said Sunday it was abandoning its demand to continue some uranium enrichment for research purposes.
The country had reached a European Union-brokered deal on Nov. 7 to freeze its uranium enrichment programs.
Iranian women read papers of registration indicating their readiness for martyrdom (suicide attack) under a photo of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Khomeini, as they attend in a rally to support Palestinians in Tehran on Nov. 12, 2004. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)
By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer
VIENNA, Austria - A senior Iran delegate appeared to cast some doubt Monday on his country's freshly delivered commitment to a total suspension of nuclear activities that can yield weapons-grade uranium, saying some centrifuges will operate despite the freeze.
The comments by Hossein Mousavian to Iranian television came just hours before the board of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency readied to approve a resolution meant to bring an end to a dispute that had threatened to go all the way to the U.N. Security Council.
Diplomats, from the European Union and elsewhere, said the commitment sent by letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Sunday fulfilled demands that Tehran include centrifuges in its total suspension of uranium-enrichment programs.
But Mousavian, the chief Iranian delegate to the meeting, suggested otherwise, telling IRIN television: "The centrifuge systems would not stop and will continue to work under the full supervision of the IAEA."
Delegates and other diplomats with nuclear expertise suggested the comments were meant to ease fears among hard-liners in Iran that Tehran gave up too much in exchange for a softly worded resolution. They said they still believed Iran would not run any centrifuges as part of the suspension deal.
In Tehran, government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh also appeared to endorse the deal, saying Iran had agreed not to test any centrifuges "for now."
A senior diplomat familiar with Iran's nuclear dossier told The Associated Press the Iranian pledge appeared to contain no pitfalls and seemed to meet the European demands for full suspension.
But it came with strings attached, with France, Germany and Britain accepting an Iranian demand to further water down the language of a draft resolution they wrote for adoption by the board of the IAEA on ways of policing the suspension.
The text to be adopted Monday now includes an extra phrase emphasizing that the suspension is not a legal or binding obligation on Tehran's part, he said.
Western diplomats said the United States which insists Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons and wants Iran referred to the U.N. Security Council for alleged violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was unhappy with the draft and felt it had been left out of negotiations on the text.
It also believed that any suspension would be short-lived a fear shared by several EU delegates at the meeting.
Under the agreement, the 20 centrifuges Iran had previously wanted exempted would not be placed under IAEA seals but monitored by cameras, said the diplomats.
The meeting was adjourned in disarray Friday. The pause was meant to give time for the Iranian government to approve a total freeze of its program, which can produce both low-grade nuclear fuel and weapons-grade material for the core of nuclear warheads. Delegates were also to decide on further steps in policing Tehran's nuclear activities.
The dispute about what constituted full suspension had dominated the meeting.
The Europeans insist the deal committed Iran to full suspension of enrichment and all related activities at least while the two sides discuss a pact meant to provide Iran with EU technical and economic aid and other concessions.
But Iran came to Thursday's opening day of the IAEA meeting with demands that it be allowed to run the 20 centrifuges which can spin gas into enriched uranium for research purposes.
As the clock ticked down to Monday, EU officials and delegates spoke of the growing likelihood of tough action at the board meeting if Iran remained defiant including the start of work on a harsh resolution that could include the threat of U.N. Security Council action.
That resolution would have replaced the draft written by France, Germany and Britain containing intentionally weak language on how any freeze would be monitored by the agency in an attempt to entice Tehran to sign on to total suspension.
Oh, "monitored by cameras". Well, then, that's okay. ARUGHHHHHHHHHHH WAKE UP WORLD!!!!
A Nuclear Iran
Is it a question or "if," or "when"?
by Christian Lowe
11/29/2004 12:00:00 AM
IRAN'S RECENT PUBLIC DECISION to halt its uranium enrichment program could be the first move in a gradual opening of its society and an attempt by Iran's moderate factions to integrate Tehran into the world's economy. Could the pursuit of nuclear weapons be merely a bargaining chip for greater concessions by the Europeans and the United States to take pressure off the Islamic regime? Should Iran's agreement to halt its nuclear weapons program and open its research facilities to U.N. inspectors be taken at face value? The prospects for success are not encouraging, one expert writes. And based on Tehran's latest attempt to maintain some of its uranium enrichment capability despite its earlier pledge to abandon it, it seems that Iran is still unwilling to forego the nuclear option.
Iran's history of waging war through terrorist proxy forces, its decrepit military, the growing strength of the United States in the region, and lessons learned from a host of regimes who developed covert nuclear programs lead to the suspicion that Iran will likely forge ahead with its nuclear weapons program despite its recent pledge not to. In the August 2004 edition of the U.S. Army War College's professional journal, Parameters, Richard Russell contends that Iran's mullahs believe that the path to security is paved with the bomb.
Russell--a professor of Near-East and South-Asian security studies at Washington's National Defense University and an adjunct professor of security studies at Georgetown University--believes that a confrontation with Iran is more than likely.
"The good news
is that assertive multilateral diplomacy still has some running room for negotiating a stall or derailment of Iran's nuclear weapons program," Russell writes in his article titled Iran in Iraq's Shadow: Dealing with Tehran's Nuclear Weapons Bid. "The bad news is that the prospects are dim for achieving this end without the resort to force over the coming years."
Not only does Iran have "geopolitical aspirations" to be a major player in the Middle East, as Iraq did under Saddam Hussein, but it has also invested billions in its covert nuclear weapons program. The further deterioration of the regime's armed forces--which Russell contends are weaker now than at any time since the 1979 revolution--combined with the U.S. victory in Iraq "have fueled Iran's insecurity and geopolitical sense of encirclement." Nuclear weapons, therefore, are "a means to fill the void in military and deterrent capabilities," Russell writes.
Don't take Iran's latest pledge at face value, Russell adds. The mullahs in Tehran have been developing their nuclear weapons program in secret for years and have seen how Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea have developed theirs clandestinely and with little firm protest or reprisal from word powers. Iran will likely continue to develop its bomb secretly and deny it publicly until the project is complete--despite U.N. controls and inspections. "Iran has had plenty of opportunity to learn lessons on beating the IAEA inspection regime from watching Iraq and North Korea, which both cheated successfully against IAEA inspectors. . . . The Iranians would be foolhardy to undermine their civilian nuclear power cover story and announce their quest for nuclear weapons, only to increase their vulnerability to American and Israeli preventative action," Russell writes.
THE KIND OF DIPLOMACY spearheaded by Germany, France, and Britain is unlikely to lead to a successful dismantling of Iran's nuclear weapons programs, Russell contends. Sanctions would hurt the Iranian people more than the Islamic regime and could undermine U.S. efforts for regime change. America could offer formal diplomatic relations, economic aid to modernize Iran's oil industry and the release of frozen Iranian assets, but making sure Tehran was using the aid for its intended purpose would be nearly impossible, Russell contends. Likewise, the military option is not without significant risk. An airstrike would involve hundreds of targets; invasion would require more forces than the U.S. has to commit: "The United States now has a significant portion of its total ground forces committed to Iraq and would be hard-pressed to mount a comparable or larger operation simultaneously against Iran."
None of the options are perfect, Russell argues, but some things are sure: Iran will continue its nuclear weapons program until it obtains the bomb once and for all--it is seen as a matter of military necessity and the key to Tehran's influence in the region--while hiding behind ambiguity and concealment. A nuclear Iran, however, cannot be tolerated. Iran is well known for its sponsorship of terrorist organizations and has conducted a foreign policy of violence by proxy. The risk that Iran will transfer its nuclear technology to groups such as Hezbollah, whom Iran supports with an estimated yearly stipend of more than $100 million, is great. Additionally, a nuclear-armed Iran would be
emboldened to strong-arm America's regional allies into pulling away from the United States or run the risk of an atomic attack by terrorist proxies.
"Tehran might be tempted to harness the threat of nuclear weapons for leverage in the political military struggle against the United States for power and influence in the Persian Gulf," Russell writes. "The Arab Gulf states would be more vulnerable to Iranian political pressure to reduce security cooperation with the United States, particularly in the event of a regional contingency."
Christian Lowe is a staff writer for Army Times Publishing Company and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.
Problem shelved, not problem solved after Iran freezes nuclear fuel cycle
Mon Nov 29, 6:45 AM ET
Mideast - AFP
TEHRAN (AFP) - A major international crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions may have been averted for the time being, but the fundamental problem remains -- the Islamic regime still wants its very own nuclear fuel cycle.
In a deal set to keep its nuclear ambitions away from the United Nations (news - web sites) Security Council for the time being, the Islamic republic has yet again agreed to suspend, but not abandon, its uranium enrichment-related work.
Enrichment has been and remains at the heart of the stand-off at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based UN body set up to check the spread of nuclear weapons across the globe.
Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to low levels, so as to produce fuel for a series of atomic power stations it has yet to build. And it zealously guards its "right" under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to have a peaceful nuclear programme, including the full fuel cycle.
But Britain, France and Germany -- the European trio who have been leading diplomatic efforts aimed at solving the issue -- all fear that Iran's fuel cycle drive belies an effort to acquire a dangerous "strategic option".
"The only things that stands between the fuel cycle and a nuclear bomb is intention," said one EU diplomat close to the issue.
"It's that simple: if Iran has the fuel cycle, it has the strategic option to build a bomb. We could have a peaceful programme one day, under full IAEA supervision, and then the next day the inspectors are kicked out and soon after Iran has a nuclear bomb."
Iran asserts it does not want, or even need, what it says is an "unIslamic" type of weapon -- even if it has been lumped into an "axis of evil" by the US administration, surrounded by US troops, and in a neighbourhood of nuclear-armed states.
But sceptics point to nearly two decades of concealment from the IAEA, and even if IAEA inspectors have still found no "smoking gun" to back up allegations from the United States, they have found plenty of reasons to remain suspicious -- suspect sites having been razed and "sterilised", and black-market shopping for "dual use" technology.
Iran also agreed to suspend enrichment over a year ago -- only to seek loopholes in that agreement and press on with enrichment-related work.
Furthermore, even after agreeing to the new suspension, Iran has again drawn allegations of being in "bad faith" -- by asking for 20 centrifuges be exempted from the freeze for "research" purposes.
Iran backed down on that request late Sunday.
So once the current IAEA meeting is out of the way and the new suspension deal with the EU-three is in force, a fresh round of difficult negotiations will be underway with the stated objective of striking a long-term deal.
"With the board of governors (of the IAEA) out of the way, we will have passed a very difficult stage. That said, the way things went at Vienna were not very encouraging -- a deal was struck, then placed in doubt at the last minute," said another Tehran-based diplomat.
In return for the suspension, the EU is offering Iran a package of incentives -- due to be hammered out in more detail when negotiations begin in mid-December -- on trade, security and technology.
This is to include supporting Iran's bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), an eventual Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, adressing Iran's regional security concerns and sharing peaceful nuclear technology.
But in tandem -- and this is the hard part -- the EU also wants "objective guarantees" that Iran is not, and will not seek to divert its programme to make weapons.
"We have no concrete idea what these objective guarantees can be. Ideally we would like Iran to give up the fuel cycle, because this is the best guarantee, but I don't think we can," said another EU diplomat close to the dossier.
"So we can imagine various mechanisms controlling the fuel cycle, but it will take some serious thinking if we are to arrive at a point where Iran has the fuel cycle and the rest of the world has guarantees."
For its part, Iranian officials say they will give the negotiations a few months before it evaluates its commitment to the freeze -- meaning it could be back to Vienna, or even New York, in the springtime.
Stones, petrol bombs thrown in demo outside British embassy in Iran
Mon Nov 29, 9:09 AM ET
Mideast - AFP
TEHRAN (AFP) - Hundreds of members of Iran's hardline Basij militia rallied outside the British embassy in protest at Britain's military deployment in Iraq (news - web sites), throwing stones and petrol bombs at the already damaged compound in Tehran.
But the some 400 male and female members of the militia's student wing, a volunteer branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, were prevented from getting too close to the embassy walls and main gate by dozens of anti-riot police.
The demonstrators chanted slogans calling for the expulsion of Britain's ambassador, Richard Dalton, and for the embassy to be shut down. They also demanded a boycott of British goods and a halt in trade with London.
After torching British, American and Israeli flags, some demonstrators threw stones at the embassy.
Three petrol bombs were also thrown, exploding harmlessly in the road in front of the embassy.
Police beat back some demonstrators, but no arrests were made before the demonstration wound down.
The protest was organised in protest over Britain's presence in Iraq, but some demonstrators also shouted slogans condemning Iran's agreement with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its work on the nuclear fuel cycle in order to avoid possible UN sanctions.
The embassy was the target of angry demonstrations earlier this year against US-led coalition attacks inside the Iraqi Shiite holy shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, as well as against the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Some of the protests saw Islamist radicals attempt to storm the compound, prompting clashes with security forces. The rallies have also been marked by the throwing of home-made bombs and stones.
Britain's embassy has yet to replace the windows shattered in the protest, fearing they will only be broken again.
The US embassy in Tehran was stormed by Islamist students after the 1979 revolution, triggering a 444-day hostage crisis and the breakoff of diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran.
Iran Escapes Censure After Nuclear Cat-And-MouseMon Nov 29, 2004 10:10 AM ET
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran scored a key diplomatic success Monday by fending off the threat of being reported to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program, which the United States says is a cover for building an atomic bomb.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, passed a resolution approving Iran's week-old suspension of sensitive nuclear activities as part of a deal with the European Union, a senior diplomat told Reuters.
Crucially, and in line with Iranian demands, the resolution described the freeze as a voluntary, confidence-building measure and not a legally binding commitment.
Its passage meant that Tehran, which denies seeking the bomb, had achieved its immediate objective of avoiding being hauled before the Security Council for possible sanctions.
Washington believes Iran is playing games with the international community and wants to see it referred to the Council.
The resolution capped five days of hectic back-and-forth negotiation in which Iran first raised new demands and then backed down again, at one point throwing the EU deal into doubt.
The dispute focused on Tehran's request to exempt some 20 centrifuges from the Nov. 14 agreement in order to continue research with them.
Centrifuges are devices that spin at supersonic speeds to enrich, or purify, uranium for use as fuel in nuclear reactors. Highly enriched uranium can be used in an atom bomb, although Iran insists its aim is purely to generate electricity.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran had now withdrawn the exemption request, and IAEA inspectors Monday installed surveillance cameras to monitor the centrifuges.
"This is clearly a positive step in the right direction. It would help mitigate international concern about the nature of Iran's program, and over time should help to build confidence ... I call naturally on Iran to sustain that suspension," he told reporters.
But there were signs of mounting exasperation from Western diplomats over Iranian tactics.
Some said they believed Iran had created a new loophole that it could try to exploit within three weeks. One complained that bargaining with Tehran was like "negotiations with the Mafia over continued criminal activity."
Iran insists it has a "sovereign right" to enrich uranium and is only suspending such work to assure the world of its peaceful intentions.
In Tehran, some 500 members of a conservative volunteer militia pelted the British embassy with stones and firecrackers Monday, protesting that the Iran-EU deal was a sellout.
Protesters from the basij militia, mainly black-bearded men, burned a British flag and tried to charge the embassy gates but were pushed back by a cordon of some 100 riot police.
"Nuclear energy is our right," the protesters shouted.
Several diplomats told Reuters that Iran had only promised not to test the centrifuges until Dec. 15, when the EU and Iran meet to discuss a long-term nuclear deal.
President Bush said Friday that Iran's compliance with any deal needed to be verifiable. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the IAEA would be able to hold the Iranians to account.
The head of Iran's IAEA delegation, Hossein Mousavian, told Reuters: "We informed the IAEA officially that these centrifuges, we will not test them." Asked how long this would apply, he said: "In our coming negotiations with the Europeans we will talk about it."
Next month's EU-Iran talks will focus on trade cooperation and peaceful nuclear technology that the Europeans are willing to offer Tehran if it gives up uranium enrichment for good.
Washington, diplomats say, will not block such a deal but it will not actively support it either -- a stance that some experts believe will eventually kill the agreement. A previous EU-Iran deal collapsed earlier this year.
(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers)
Blair promises to 'hold Iran to account' over nuclear pledges
Mon Nov 29,10:34 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) pledged that he would "hold Iran to account" over its promises to halt its uranium enrichment programme, a move likely to see Tehran escape UN sanctions.
"France, Germany and Britain have been working very closely on this," Blair told his monthly press conference in London, referring to the European countries which have brokered a deal with Iran over its alleged nuclear programme.
"Our task has been to get the undertakings from Iran, but to recognise that in the end we will have to make sure (we use) the right authority -- in this case the (International) Atomic Energy Authority -- then make sure the undertakings they have given are actually adhered to."
Diplomats in Vienna told AFP on Monday the IAEA had verified Iran had suspended all uranium enrichment activities, meaning it was likely to escape a referral to the UN for possible sanctions.
The international community had "made some progress" over the spread of weapons of mass destruction, Blair said, pointing to concessions by Libya as well as Iran.
The issue of North Korea (news - web sites) was also "extremely important", Blair said, adding he would discuss the issue with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun when he arrives in London for a state visit on Wednesday.
He added: "But we will make sure we hold Iran to account."
Blair also expressed sympathy with pro-democracy campaigners in Iran, saying: "We support those who would like the same democratic rights as we have here."
Britain's embassy compound in Tehran was on Monday the target of stones and petrol bombs thrown by members of Iran's hardline Basij.