Reuters: The EU’s three biggest powers plan to offer Iran a light-water nuclear reactor as part of a package of incentives if Tehran agrees to freeze its uranium enrichment programme, EU diplomats said on Tuesday. By Louis Charbonneau
BERLIN, May 16 (Reuters) – The EU’s three biggest powers plan to offer Iran a light-water nuclear reactor as part of a package of incentives if Tehran agrees to freeze its uranium enrichment programme, EU diplomats said on Tuesday.
They said they would be very surprised if Iran accepted their offer, though they added that if rejected, it would be seen as confirmation that Tehran’s nuclear programme does not solely aim at power generation for peaceful ends.
The United States and EU accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy programme, an allegation Tehran vehemently denies.
“The EU3 and Solana are planning an offer of a European light-water reactor to Iran in return for a suspension of its enrichment programme,” a European Union diplomat familiar with the negotiations on Iran told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
He said the political directors from the “EU3” — Britain, France and Germany — and the office of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana would discuss the proposed incentives plan with U.S., Russian and Chinese counterparts in London on Friday.
China declared its support for what would be a broad European plan to offer Iran sophisticated nuclear technology if it scraps uranium enrichment work Western countries suspect is part of a quest for atomic bombs.
“China approves of the Europeans’ important stance of striving to solve the Iran nuclear issue through peaceful negotiation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said of the proposal outlined, without reference to the reactor, in Brussels on Monday.
Nuclear experts say light-water reactors are more difficult to use for weapons purposes than heavy-water plants.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman suggested that Iran should react positively to the EU proposal and said all sides should try actively to restart negotiations.
China and Russia are opposed to an EU-backed United Nations Security Council resolution that could penalise Iran if it continued sensitive nuclear development.
Iran again insisted that it would pursue enrichment, in defiance of U.N. demands that it desist.
“Iran’s decision to preserve this right (to enrichment) is definite and irreversible,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in a statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, visiting Beijing, said negotiation was the key to resolving the dispute.
“We should not isolate Iran nor put pressure on Iran,” he said after meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.
He said Moscow could not accept any suggestion of use of force against Iran. Russia, however, was concerned Tehran had not answered all the questions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“The Iranian side has repeatedly promised to do this and we count on this happening in the very nearest future,” he added.
After three years of investigation, the IAEA has said it still cannot confirm that Iran’s nuclear programme is entirely peaceful, but has found no proof of a military programme.
Iran’s Asefi appeared to dismiss the latest EU package in advance, saying that no incentive was required beyond implementing nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and IAEA rules without discrimination.
“I am recommending to Solana, if he is looking for diplomatic and peaceful solutions, he should not look for something beyond accepted international treaties and refrain from making such irresponsible remarks,” Asefi said.
The NPT says signatories may research, develop and produce nuclear fuel for peaceful use. Western officials say Iran must prove its aims are peaceful before it can exercise such a right.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in Tokyo that Iran as an NPT member had the right to peaceful use of atomic energy but should not be allowed to have nuclear arms.
Iran concealed its enrichment research for 18 years before it was disclosed by an exile opposition group.
(Additional reporting by John Boyle in Paris)