Iran: Europeans Wait To Hear President Ahmadinejad's Ideas On Nuclear Dispute
By Robert McMahon
The foreign ministers of Great Britain, France, and Germany say they are awaiting the speech tomorrow (17 September) by Iran's president to determine the way forward in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. The ministers reported no progress in two meetings with top Iranian officials on the sidelines of the UN summit in New York. A top U.S. official, meanwhile, has expressed confidence that the international community will unite to pressure Iran to return to negotiations over its uranium-enrichment-related activities.
United Nations, 16 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Officials with the group known as the EU-3 described the latest round of high-level talks with Iran as "intense" but were looking forward to new proposals from the Iranian president.
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad yesterday reaffirmed his plan to deliver new proposals during a speech to the UN General Assembly tomorrow.
Little progress was reported after efforts by the three European foreign ministers to persuade Ahmadinejad and his top negotiator, Ali Larijani, to accept the European offer made last month. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the Europeans would listen carefully to the president's proposals.
"We explained once again that the European position is unchanged. Iran knows our position, our proposal is on the table and we are waiting now for the announced new proposal of the Iranian president. He will do that on Saturday and then we will examine these new proposals and see which direction we can move," Fischer said.
The European proposals, which are backed by the United States, would provide economic, security, and nuclear cooperation to Iran. In exchange, Tehran would end its work on the nuclear fuel cycle. Iran's failure to report such work for nearly 18 years previously has raised concern about its intentions to develop a bomb.
Concern particularly centers on Iran’s interest in uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to produce either nuclear fuel, or at high levels of enrichment, weapons-grade material.
But Iran asserts its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to engage in all aspects of a peaceful nuclear energy program, including uranium-enrichment-related activities. It has repeatedly rejected the European proposal and recently restarted uranium conversion work.
The EU and United States had sought to use the summit to persuade members of the UN nuclear agency’s board of governors to back a referral of the case to the UN Security Council next week. But there reportedly was opposition to this move from leaders of China, Russia, and India, among other board members.
U.S. officials remain confident international pressure will mount on Iran. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told reporters yesterday that there are some disagreements in tactics. But he said Washington has found other leaders united in concern about Iran's program.
"We are convinced that Iran is going to find itself in an increasingly isolated state and that it would behoove the Iranians to listen to what people are saying. We have not heard a single country this week defend the Iranian government for having ruptured unilaterally the negotiations with the EU-3, not a single country has defended them," Burns said.
The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, is due on 19 September to discuss Iran's resumption of sensitive work on its nuclear fuel cycle.
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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