Iran Nuclear NewsEU, Iran nuclear talks near collapse: diplomats

EU, Iran nuclear talks near collapse: diplomats

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Reuters: Talks between Iran and the EU’s three biggest powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program are near collapse as Iran threatens to resume sensitive atomic activities, European diplomats said on Wednesday. In a deal reached with Britain, Germany and France last November, Tehran agreed to suspend all nuclear fuel-related activities while both sides tried to negotiate a long-term solution regarding Iran’s atomic ambitions. Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS – Talks between Iran and the EU’s three biggest powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program are near collapse as Iran threatens to resume sensitive atomic activities, European diplomats said on Wednesday.

In a deal reached with Britain, Germany and France last November, Tehran agreed to suspend all nuclear fuel-related activities while both sides tried to negotiate a long-term solution regarding Iran’s atomic ambitions.

But Iran, unhappy with the slow pace of talks, said over the weekend it would resume some work related to enrichment, a process of purifying uranium to use in nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.

“It doesn’t look good,” a diplomat from one of the three nations told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “The talks could collapse.”

Sharing Washington’s suspicion that Iran is developing atomic weapons, the EU has offered economic and political incentives if Tehran scraps its enrichment program. Iran says its program is intended to fuel only power plants, not arms.

But four months of talks have not convinced Iran to terminate its uranium enrichment program. Instead, Tehran is demanding to be permitted to gradually build up a commercial-scale enrichment complex under U.N. supervision that could hypothetically provide fuel for dozens of bombs annually.

The Europeans find this unacceptable, EU diplomats said.

The three European nations have also warned Iran that they would back U.S. calls to send Iran’s case to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if it resumed any enrichment-related work.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said “a resumption of any enrichment and reprocessing activities would be contrary to that commitment that the Iranians made.”

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Washington that any enrichment activity by Iran — from low-grade processing of raw uranium to its actual enrichment — would be “completely unacceptable” to the Europeans.

Washington is increasing pressure on its EU allies to keep its promise to help refer Iran’s case to the Security Council if Iran follows through on its threats, diplomats said.

ESCALATING THE ISSUE

The three European nations said in a March letter to EU President Luxembourg that it wanted Iran to continue its suspension of all uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing activities and cooperate fully with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

“If … Iran does not do so, then … we shall have no choice but to support referring Iran’s nuclear programme to the U.N. Security Council,” the letter said.

Washington asked the three nations to prepare to refer Iran to the Security Council when the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors meets next month in Vienna.

One diplomat said EU and U.S. officials met after the latest round of EU-Iran talks ended on Friday without a deal.

“The Americans have asked the EU-3 to help set up a road map for the June (IAEA) board meeting,” he said.

The IAEA’s governing board meets on June 13 — four days ahead of Iran’s presidential elections — to discuss Iran.

Separately, intense U.S. pressure has scuppered the possible acquisition of a major Europeans plastics firm by an Iranian state-owned company, Iran said on Wednesday.

European diplomats and company officials have said many top European companies have been warned by Washington to stay away from Iran.

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