Iran Nuclear NewsIranian Freeze on Uranium About to End

Iranian Freeze on Uranium About to End

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AP: A senior Iranian envoy suggested Wednesday that Tehran’s partial yearlong freeze on uranium enrichment is about to end, shrugging off U.S. and European pressure to renounce the process and end fears that his country wants to make nuclear arms. Associated Press

GEORGE JAHN

VIENNA, Austria – A senior Iranian envoy suggested Wednesday that Tehran’s partial yearlong freeze on uranium enrichment is about to end, shrugging off U.S. and European pressure to renounce the process and end fears that his country wants to make nuclear arms.

Both Washington and the European Union want a commitment from Iran to stop enrichment and have been working on a resolution to be adopted at an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting demanding that Tehran agree to such a freeze.

But they differ on the firmness of the wording of a resolution, with the United States seeking European support to have Iran hauled before the U.N. Security Council if it defies conditions meant to dispel suspicions about its nuclear agenda.

Hossein Mousavian, Iran’s chief envoy to the meeting, suggested Iran was not about to cave in to threats of Security Council action, which could lead to sanctions.

“I think one year is enough,” he told The Associated Press, when asked if his country would agree to extend a commitment to suspend enrichment that it made last October. Mousavian did not name a date for a resumption of enrichment, but suggested it could be “a few months” away.

Deep U.S.-European differences on the wording of the draft resolution persisted into Wednesday, leading to an adjournment of the meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors until Friday to allow back-room negotiations and consultations with capitals.

Still, copies of both the U.S. and European drafts – made available in full to The Associated Press – showed both sides favoring some kind of deadline for Iran to commit to a new freeze on enrichment – and at least an implicit threat of referral to the Security Council if Tehran remained defiant.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher downplayed the differences.

“The board, we think, is united in the view that Iran must cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, must come clean about its programs and suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities,” he said in Washington.

Iran is not prohibited from enrichment under its obligations to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but has faced mounting international pressure to suspend the technology – which can be used both to make nuclear arms and generate electricity – as a gesture to dispel suspicions it is interested in making weapons.

Last week, Iran confirmed an IAEA report that it planned to convert more than 40 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the feed stock for enrichment.

Even before that, international concerns grew because of perceptions that a suspension of enrichment and related activities was never fully enacted and had eroded since Tehran’s pledge a year ago.

An IAEA report has given Iran some good marks for cooperation with the most recent phase of an agency probe into nearly two decades of covert nuclear activities that came to light only two years ago. But the report also said Iran must do more to banish all suspicions it harbors nuclear weapons ambitions.

Mousavian referred to that report in arguing there was no need to demand a further freeze.

“All major necessary confidence-building measures have been taken by Iran, and today the agency has full control and supervision,” he said. “That’s why we believe that (a) one year suspension is good enough.”

Mousavian downplayed the significance of U.S.-European differences on the language of any resolution, suggesting the rift was more over style than substance.

“They have the same opinion, but the Americans are in a hurry for a harsh decision and the Europeans believe in dialogue,” he said.

That view was echoed by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, the closest figure to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and head of the Expediency Council, a powerful arbitrating body within the ruling establishment.

“America and the Europeans follow the same objective: denying Iran mastery over nuclear technology,” Rafsanjani told state television. “The Americans say that impudently, while Europeans say (it) diplomatically.”

Among the differences were on a deadline. The Americans asked that the draft call on Iran to meet demands by Oct. 31. The EU text remained more vague, asking only that IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei submit a comprehensive report before November for evaluation by the board.

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