AFP: The watchdog UN atomic agency will meet next Tuesday following Iran’s threats to resume sensitive nuclear fuel cycle work, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
spokesman said Friday. AFP
by Michael Adler
VIENNA – The watchdog UN atomic agency will meet next Tuesday following Iran’s threats to resume sensitive nuclear fuel cycle work, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spokesman said Friday.
The meeting was announced as the European Union submitted in Tehran proposals that would allow Iran to pursue peaceful nuclear energy work as long it refrains from activities that could help it make atomic weapons.
But Iranian negotiator Hossein Moussavian had said Thursday that Iran would resume preliminary fuel cycle work within one or two days and threatened to go beyond this to produce enriched uranium, which can either fuel civilian power plants or make nuclear bombs.
“If the Europeans call an extraordinary meeting (of the IAEA board), that will be a violation of all international rules and they should not expect us to maintain the freeze on our activities,” Moussavian said.
IAEA spokesman Peter Rickwood said in Vienna however: “A meeting of the IAEA board of governors has been called for Tuesday, August 9, at 10:30 am (0830 GMT) at the request of (EU negotiators) Britain, France and Germany.”
The Vienna-based IAEA could refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions but diplomats from the European trio said the purpose of the meeting was to warn off the Iranians from resuming fuel cycle work.
One diplomat added, however, that “this might be a meeting where something else happens,” a reference to Iran presenting the IAEA with a fait accompli of having already started uranium conversion, a first step in enriching uranium.
“I hope Iran will heed the voice of reason,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Friday.
But if Iran resumes conversion, “then it is certain that the international community will ask the Security Council to intervene,” he said.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said meanwhile in Tehran: “We will give ourselves one or two days to examine the European proposals and we will make a decision.”
Iran can continue to develop its nuclear programme as long as it is clearly for civilian and not military use, a spokesman for the EU’s executive commission said in explaining the proposals.
“The letter from the three countries clearly mentions a civil nuclear programme in Iran, and provided they do respect the rules — the so-called proliferation proof, they undertake not to proliferate — they can go for this civilian nuclear programme,” the spokesman told reporters.
A diplomat close to the IAEA told AFP that the EU proposal rules out Iran being able to make highly enriched uranium and reprocessed plutonium.
“A lot of the whole issue resolves around fuel and access to fuel,” said a second diplomat, describing the 30-page text as a “comprehensive package.”
Diplomats said the Europeans were offering the Iranians guaranteed fuel at market prices for a nuclear power plant they are building at Bushehr, trade benefits including civilian aircraft and parts they desperately need, as well as help towards joining the World Trade Organization and promises for Iran to be brought into talks on regional security issues, especially those touching on Iran’s neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Europeans are also “against Iran’s construction of a heavy-water reactor in Arak which could produce large amounts of plutonium and are offering cooperation on building a light-water reactor instead,” said a diplomat, who said this might not be spelled out in detail in the proposals.
Iran had agreed in November to suspend the conversion and enrichment of uranium for the duration of negotiations with the EU over its nuclear activities, which the United States suspects is a cover for efforts to build an atomic bomb.
But it has described as “irreversible” its decision to resume conversion at a plant in Isfahan, where it expects IAEA inspectors to monitor the removal of seals the agency has placed on crucial machines and pipes.