Iran may resume uranium enrichment in March

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Reuters: Iran may resume uranium enrichment — which can
be used to make atomic bombs — in March if talks with the European Union fail to yield satisfactory progress, a senior Iranian security official said on Monday. Even if the talks go well, Hossein Mousavian told Reuters Tehran was only prepared to extend until June the enrichment freeze it began in late November in an effort to disprove U.S. accusations it is seeking nuclear weapons. Reuters

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN – Iran may resume uranium enrichment — which can be used to make atomic bombs — in March if talks with the European Union fail to yield satisfactory progress, a senior Iranian security official said on Monday.

Even if the talks go well, Hossein Mousavian told Reuters Tehran was only prepared to extend until June the enrichment freeze it began in late November in an effort to disprove U.S. accusations it is seeking nuclear weapons.

“The outcome of the talks will have a great impact on Iran’s decision,” said Mousavian, a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team with the EU and head of the foreign policy committee on the Supreme National Security Council.

“If the talks end without any result, March itself could be the date for resuming enrichment.

“If the outcome is really fruitful … and develops in a direction of comprehensive and strategic cooperation between Iran and Europe, there will be a chance of extending the suspension for three more months.”

Tehran has consistently said its freeze on nuclear work was voluntary and would last only a matter of months. But the possibility enrichment could resume as soon as March is likely to concern Washington, which has given only lukewarm support to the EU initiative to engage with the Islamic state.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons but agreed to freeze sensitive atomic work, including uranium enrichment, last year to avoid referral to the United Nations Security Council, where it could have faced economic sanctions.

Led by Britain, Germany and France, the EU is trying to persuade Iran to give up work that could be used to make atomic warheads in return for a package of incentives including trade deals and help with a civilian nuclear programme.

WON’T SCRAP FUEL CYCLE

Iran-EU working groups dealing with economic, security and technological issues are due to complete the first phase of the talks by mid-March.

But Mousavian said Iran would never scrap its nuclear fuel cycle work and was only prepared to give “objective guarantees” that it will not divert nuclear fuel into bomb making.

“If the Europeans’ problem is the fuel cycle, then negotiations are useless,” he said.

“But if they are concerned about us building nuclear bombs, we are fully prepared for a comprehensive arrangement to give all assurances that Iran will not seek nuclear bombs.”

Tehran says it needs the nuclear fuel cycle to feed atomic reactors for generating electricity to meet growing demand.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency which has been investigating Iran’s nuclear programme for the past two years, said last week the jury was still out on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Russia has said it will finish building Iran’s first atomic reactor in the southern port of Bushehr next year.

Fuel for the plant is supposed to be supplied by Russia. But Tehran is baulking at the price Moscow wants to charge it for returning the spent fuel to Russia to prevent Iran reprocessing it into weapons-grade material.

“This fuel is becoming very expensive for us and by this the Russians are encouraging us to become more and more independent and produce our own fuel,” Mousavian said.