Europe offers Iran 'last chance' to quit uranium enrichment

22 October 2004

France, Germany and the UK have offered Iran a last chance to quit enrichment and avoid Security Council sanctions.

In a secret Vienna meeting, the three leading European Union (EU) nations reportedly offered Iran access to civilian nuclear fuel, a light water research reactor, potentially lucrative trade agreements and the recognition of its right to a civilian nuclear programme in return for the cessation of all enrichment activities.

The proposal was discussed by the G8 group of industrialised nations on 15 October and was backed by Japan and Russia. The USA, however, has not “bought on, signed on or endorsed it,” according to Richard Boucher of the State Department, which remains entirely sceptical of Iran’s motives and openly favours referral of the matter to the United Nations Security Council, where economic sanctions could be imposed.

Iran struck a deal with the EU nations earlier this year and suspended uranium enrichment for a time. The deal failed because it did not specifically ban the manufacture of centrifuge components or UF6 gas, activities Iran resumed to the disappointment of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iranian president Mohammad Khatami asserted his country’s right to have nuclear technology for civilian use but said: “We are ready to cooperate and believe that dialogue and negotiation are the only ways to reach an understanding.” Hamid Reza Assefi, of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said the current European position was ‘unbalanced’ and that Iran would make some counterproposals while insisting that total suspension of enrichment was an impossibility.

This appears to be the last round in the ‘good cop, bad cop’ game between Iran, the EU and the USA. If the EU strategy of ‘constructive engagement’ fails this time, most members of the bloc will join the USA in calling for Iran to be taken to the Security Council.

The effective deadline for an agreement is 25 November, when the IAEA board of governors will meet in Vienna to discuss the overall level of progress in Iran. If the various delegations are dissatisfied, they could then decide to refer the matter to the Security Council.

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