TEHRAN - Diplomats might be optimistic about a breakthrough with Tehran over
its nuclear program after weekend talks between Tehran and three European Union
heavyweights, but realities are more complicated, since many Iranians say their
country has a legitimate right to have full access to nuclear technology.
The talks in Paris, between France, Germany, and Britain, were seen by many
as the last chance for Iran to reach an agreement that would avoid its being
referred to the UN Security Council, and avert the risk of sanctions over its
According to reports, the Europeans were confident they would be able to persuade
Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program indefinitely as a way to ensure
that it does not use the technology to produce a nuclear weapon. But Iran has
insisted that the suspension be no longer than six months and sought assurances
that it would not be asked to permanently revoke its right to have a nuclear
European envoys also stressed in Paris that Tehran must answer by the time
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) takes the issue up on Nov. 25,
and if it fails, Europe will back U.S. calls to refer Iran to the UN Security
The administration of U.S. President George W Bush, which refuses to talk directly
to the Iranian administration, accuses it of supporting terrorists and developing
weapons of mass destruction. Washington, it seems, is keen to pursue sanctions
and is pressing its allies to work on a Security Council resolution for that.
Addressing himself directly to Bush at Friday prayers, three days after the
U.S. president was reelected, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
said: "No, sir, we are not seeking to have nuclear weapons."
"Our nuclear weapon is this country, and the youth of its people," added
Before the Paris talks, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Iran was ready
to reach an agreement over its nuclear program. He said Tehran was ready to
undertake not to pursue nuclear weapons as long as Iran's right to have
peaceful nuclear technology was recognized.
Early last week, IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran should suspend its uranium
enrichment program, and he urged it to do so as a confidence-building measure.
But 238 members of the Islamic Consultancy Assembly (Parliament) are trying
to pass a bill preventing Khatami's government from suspending the country's
uranium enrichment program
"European countries are imposing the suspension of uranium enrichment
process, and by doing this they are trying to demolish Iranian creativity in
scientific fields," Hussain Mozaffar, a Tehran hardliner deputy in Parliament,
told the Jomhorieslami daily.
"Today, our country is facing a dilemma trying to safeguard our self-esteem,"
A survey carried out by the official Keyhan daily indicated that 78.6
percent of Iranians polled are against any suspension temporary or indefinite
of the country's nuclear program. They also indicated that Iran must
not bow to pressures from either Europe or the IAEA.
More than 1,375 Iranian academics and nuclear scientists have signed a petition
urging Khatami to stand firm in the negotiations and not compromise on what
they call the "Iranian nation's legitimate right to have full access to peaceful
On Feb. 9, 2003, Iran's nuclear program and efforts at building sophisticated
facilities at Natanz and several other cities, which would eventually produce
enriched uranium, were revealed.
China, in 1991, provided Iran with uranium hexafluoride a uranium compound
that is in a gaseous state and used for enriching uranium. In addition, Iran
recently acknowledged that it also received (again in 1991) from China 1,000
kg of natural uranium hexafluoride, 400 kg of uranium tetrafluoride, and 400
kg of uranium dioxide, without reporting them to the IAEA.
On Saturday, China gave Iran crucial backing by opposing U.S. efforts to have
the Islamic republic referred to the Council. "There is no reason to send the
issue to the Security Council," Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said at
a press conference here with his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharazi.
"It would only make the issue more complicated and difficult to work out,"
Li said. The Chinese foreign minister refused to speculate on whether China
would use its veto in the Security Council in the event of Iran's case being
"Iranian scientists have managed to internalize nuclear technology in
a way that is not irrevocable and the international community should accept
it," said Iran's Atomic Energy Organization chief, Gholamreza Aghazadeh,
in an interview.
At the same time Aghazadeh is flexible in his own view: "We are not saying
we are refusing offers to provide us with nuclear fuel, but we want also to
produce our own nuclear fuel as well as buy what we lack from outside."
But U.S. pressure on Iran has already attracted criticism from former White
In an interview with the London-based Financial Times, Zbigniew Brzezinski,
who was national security adviser to former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, said
he feared a second Bush administration would not hesitate to use force against
Iran in order to deal what it sees as a "nuclear threat."
"Force will only unify the mullahs with the democratic opposition and
derail political change in Iran," Brzezinski told the daily. "It may
not stop Iran from buying nuclear weapons and will have adverse consequences
in Iraq and Afghanistan."
(Inter Press Service)