New York Times: Senior officials from Western powers discussed the possibility on Friday of new sanctions on Iran for flouting the United Nations Security Council’s demands and expressed disappointment that Iran had not yet accepted a draft agreement to export most of its enriched uranium for nuclear fuel. The New York Times
By STEVEN ERLANGER
PARIS — Senior officials from Western powers discussed the possibility on Friday of new sanctions on Iran for flouting the United Nations Security Council’s demands and expressed disappointment that Iran had not yet accepted a draft agreement to export most of its enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.
The officials met in Brussels to discuss where matters stood with Iran and the possibility of new sanctions should Iran continue to play for time. While a joint statement after the meeting was expressed in diplomatic language, the meeting itself was a sign of exasperation with Iran.
Even President Obama, who has been most willing to give Iran time to decide on the proposal, as a means to broader negotiations, said Thursday in South Korea that because Iran had not agreed to the proposal, the United States would begin “developing a package of potential steps that we could take that will indicate our seriousness to Iran.”
Iran has rejected an understanding reached with its representatives on Oct. 1 to remove about 2,600 pounds of lightly enriched uranium — some 70 percent of its known supplies — so it can be processed in Russia and France into nuclear fuel for a reactor in Tehran used to make medical isotopes.
Instead, Iran has privately insisted that it will not export any uranium until it receives the fuel, undermining the whole point of the exercise, which was to bring Iran’s stockpiles below the level required to construct a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful nuclear energy; most of the world believes Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb.
“We are disappointed by the lack of follow-up to the three understandings reached” in Geneva on Oct. 1, the officials said Friday in a statement issued in Brussels on behalf of the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain.
The formal negotiations on the uranium swap have been handled by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but Iran has “not responded positively to the I.A.E.A. proposed agreement for the provision of nuclear fuel for its Tehran research reactor,” the statement said. Nor has Iran “engaged in an intensified dialogue” with the West about its nuclear program, it said. Iran also failed to meet the group again by the end of October, as it had agreed to do.
While Iran did allow inspectors to visit a previously secret enrichment facility under construction near Qum, the statement said that Iran should have disclosed the construction sooner and that the construction of a new enrichment facility itself “is in defiance of several U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
The officials urged Iran “to reconsider the opportunity offered by this agreement to meet the humanitarian needs of its people and to engage seriously with us in dialogue and negotiations.” They said they would meet again soon “to decide on our next steps.”
China and Russia have been reluctant to commit to new sanctions, arguing that the time for talks has not yet finished.
A senior Obama administration official said this week that while the administration was beginning to discuss what heightened sanctions might look like, the proposed deal to ship part of Iran’s uranium stockpile out of the country “may never be taken off the table.” By leaving open the possibility that Iran could change its mind, the administration official said, the White House believes it will have an easier time bringing Russia and China aboard for sanctions.
But those sanctions will not be seriously considered until next year, several officials said. Mr. Obama had set the end of the year as an approximate deadline to assess whether the administration’s policy of trying to engage Iran was yielding results.
Ian C. Kelly, the State Department spokesman, told reporters on Thursday that the deadline was “coming very quickly,” and that to prepare for it, the administration and its allies were “developing a package of measures that will show to Iran the seriousness of the consequences of their noncompliance.”
The director of the atomic agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has urged more time for talks, insisting Friday in Berlin that Iran had not yet given a final answer to the I.A.E.A. proposal. “What I got, of course, is an oral response, which basically said, ‘We need to keep all the material in Iran until we get the fuel,’ ” he said.
That oral response is interpreted by the West as rejection, though Dr. ElBaradei said, “I do not consider that I have received a final answer.”
Dr. ElBaradei, who leaves office on Nov. 30, opposes new sanctions on Iran as ineffective, but the West regards new sanctions and the threat of them to be a vital part of its strategy.
David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington.