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Iran Could Scuttle Nuclear Meeting Over Preparation Dispute
Iran might postpone or withdraw entirely from a planned multilateral meeting aimed at addressing suspicions over its nuclear program because the European Union has refused to arrange a prior planning discussion, the nation's president and top nuclear negotiator warned on Wednesday (see GSN, May 6).
The assertion indicates top Iranian officials have grown pessimistic over the potential for the scheduled June 18-19 gathering in Moscow to lead to an atomic compromise or curbs on economic penalties targeting their country, the New York Times reported. Representatives of Iran, which insists its nuclear program has no military component, are scheduled to confer at the meeting with counterparts from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany in an effort to resolve fears that Iranian atomic efforts are geared toward establishment of a nuclear-weapon capability.
The meeting follows recent rounds of talks in Turkey and Iraq (Gladstone/Afkhami, New York Times I, June 6).
"Delay by the other side in holding the meeting of experts and deputies is casting doubt and uncertainty on the willingness (of the P-5+1) for success in the talks in Moscow," Agence France-Presse quoted Iranian nuclear envoy Saeed Jalili as saying on Wednesday in a message to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has communicated with Iran on behalf of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
"The process of talks only for (further) talks is fruitless," Jalili added in the comments reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency.
An EU reply to two prior Iranian statements of grievance over the need for preliminary talks prompted an icy response from the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, which said the response was "unsatisfactory" and had only acknowledged "general topics," according to media updates.
Ashton spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic on Wednesday said "engagement on substance" is necessary for the Moscow meeting to yield a positive outcome, "not the process."
"The issue is of (a) political nature and we need (a) clear signal of Iranian readiness to engage on the substance" of offers put forward to Iran by the six other negotiating powers at a meeting in Baghdad last month, the spokeswoman said (see GSN, May 25).
"Ashton will take up the issue directly" with the top Iranian nuclear negotiator, she added (Agence France-Presse I/Spacedaily.com, June 6).
“We are not against technical meetings in principle, but the time is not right,” Kocijancic said to the Times in an e-mail statement.
Tehran is seeking to slow the dialogue by pursuing such talks, Western international relations officials suggested (Gladstone/Afkhami, New York Times).
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday said Tehran "is ready to pursue negotiations in Moscow, and even in Beijing, and has made good proposals," AFP reported.
"But taking into account that, after a meeting in Baghdad and, in conformity with what was agreed, our efforts to arrange a meeting between the deputies of Ashton and the deputy of [Jalili] have not been successful, we consider that the West is looking for excuses to waste time," Ahmadinejad said (Agence France-Presse I).
The United States on Thursday reaffirmed the global community's focus on Iran's refinement of 20 percent-enriched uranium, the Associated Press reported. The material is ostensibly intended to fuel a medical reactor, but Washington and other governments fear the ongoing operation could enable faster production of weapon-grade material with an enrichment level of roughly 90 percent.
This month's meeting in Moscow would focus on initiating steps toward a compromise, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
"We want [Iran] to come prepared to take concrete steps," Clinton said.
"I am convinced that one of the reasons that Iran came back to the negotiating table was because of the success of our pressure strategy," she added in reference to the use of punitive financial measures against the Persian Gulf regional power (Associated Press/Boston Globe, June 7).
Iran would under no circumstances halt its uranium refinement operations, the nation's Fars News Agency quoted the top Iranian delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency as saying on Wednesday. The enrichment process can generate civilian fuel as well as bomb material.
"Iran is fully committed to its obligations" under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the U.N. nuclear watchdog's 35-nation governing board. "Iran has always called for negotiation as the only civilized path for removing ambiguities and promoting cooperation on global and regional issues as well as nuclear applications for peaceful uses, disarmament and nonproliferation. In this context, Iran shall continue its nuclear activities including enrichment for peaceful application without any interruption under the agency's supervision" (Fars News Agency I, June 6).
Soltanieh voiced a wish for his nation to soon finalize plans with the agency for executing a probe of alleged weapon-related Iranian atomic activities, Reuters reported.
"We have decided to work with the agency ... to prove that those allegations ... are forged and fabricated. That is exactly what we are going to do," he said. "We will try to continue to work on the text of the structured approach. Hopefully we will be able to conclude it in a way that it will be ... a good basis for our work in the future" (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters I/Haaretz, June 6).
Soltanieh is slated on Friday to confer with IAEA safeguards chief Herman Nackaerts and Deputy Director General Rafael Grossi in an effort to finalize such an arrangement, AFP reported (Agence France-Presse II/Spacewar.com, June 7).
Washington's envoy to the U.N. organization urged Tehran to back an IAEA inspection plan and "implement whatever is agreed to."
"Whatever they put their signature to, and the agency also signs, Iran needs to implement," Ambassador Robert Wood told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in comments published on Wednesday (Charles Recknagel, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, June 6).
Separately, the 120-nation Nonaligned Movement on Tuesday took issue with the U.N. nuclear watchdog's refusal to provide Tehran with records said to indicate possible Iranian nuclear weapon development activities, the country's Press TV reported (Press TV, June 6).
Russian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Grigory Berdennikov on Wednesday said Tehran and the agency "are finding opportunities to reach mutual understanding on the most difficult issues," ITAR-Tass reported.
"We hope that the parties will be able to create necessary conditions for forming a steady mechanism, which would make it possible to remove any 'gaps' in Iran's nuclear problem within a mutually respectful dialogue," Berdennikov said.
The diplomat said he wanted the sides to "do everything possible to finish the work as soon as possible in order to coordinate a document on models for further cooperation."
"We hope that the results of this work will help make the talks on Iran's nuclear problem positive within the IAEA and other forums," he added (ITAR-Tass I, June 7).
Elsewhere, the Obama administration has denied orchestrating an Iran-related communication effort in Israel, despite a high rate of contact between and Israeli officials and other steps by Washington to dissuade Tel Aviv from launching an independent armed offensive against Iranian atomic sites, the Times reported on Wednesday. Numerous acting and retired U.S. government personnel have visited Israel to discuss the possibilities of further tightening Iran's economic isolation and employing armed force over the nuclear dispute (Mark Landler, New York Times II, June 6).
An Israeli armed campaign against Iranian atomic sites would entail significant undesirable repercussions, former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Colin Kahl wand two other experts warned in an assessment published on Wednesday.
The analysis asserts that the danger posed by Iran is significant but not immediate; top Iranian officials would not intend to employ a nuclear bomb in combat or supply extremists with such a weapon; Iran's potential acquisition of atomic armaments would establish the potential for an accidental nuclear conflict with Israel; and a U.S. strategy of deterrence toward a nuclear-armed Iran would be problematic, the Atlantic reported (Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, June 6).
"Any attempts to solve the Iranian problem with force are unacceptable and could lead to unpredictable circumstances that threaten stability and security in the region and the entire world," AFP quoted the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Council as saying on Thursday (Agence France-Presse III/Sun Daily, June 7).
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said his nation has "always supported the right of the Iranian people to modern technologies, including the peaceful use of atomic energy."
"But I want to emphasize that it is peaceful that we are talking about. You know our position," he added in remarks to Ahmadinejad (Agence France-Presse IV/Google News, June 7).
Elsewhere, Iran is set to pursue litigation against 20 companies in Europe for breaching agreements on providing petroleum processing systems, Fars News on Wednesday quoted high-level Iranian government personnel as saying. The European Union in 2010 barred firms in the 27-nation bloc from selling petroleum and gasoline systems to Iran (Fars News Agency II, June 6).
In the United Kingdom, authorities have charged an entrepreneur with illicitly supplying Iran with cobalt aluminate usable in weapons of mass destruction, the London Telegraph reported (London Telegraph, June 6).
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