Iran Will Not Discuss Uranium Curbs: Ambassador

Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment complex, shown in 2007. Iran's ambassador to France said his country would not consider potential curbs to its uranium enrichment program (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian).
Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment complex, shown in 2007. Iran's ambassador to France said his country would not consider potential curbs to its uranium enrichment program (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian).

Iran will not consider the possibility of halting or slowing its refinement of uranium, despite its hopeful attitude toward discussions planned with six major governments, the Iranian ambassador to France said in comments reported by Reuters on Thursday (see GSN, March 8).

The U.N. Security Council to date has adopted four sanctions resolutions aimed at pressuring Iran to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can yield fuel for civilian applications as well as nuclear weapons. The United States and other governments have also piled on with additional measures. Tehran insists its nuclear ambitions are strictly nonmilitary in nature.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Tuesday said Germany and the five Security Council member nations -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- had decided to join new discussions with Iran over the Middle Eastern nation's nuclear program. Iranian officials most recently met with representatives from the nations on two separate occasions in December 2010 and January 2011, but neither gathering yielded clear progress toward resolving concerns about Iranian atomic operations (see GSN, Jan. 24, 2011).

"We have to try through dialogue to resolve them (issues) and reach a compromise and in my opinion it's better not to prejudge these negotiations in advance," Iranian Ambassador Ali Ahani said.

Participants should adopt a pragmatic strategy in the anticipated discussions, and the six countries have no need to be concerned over Iran's atomic efforts, Ahani said.

"In this sense recognizing Iran as responsible and a signatory to the [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] that insists on using these technologies purely for peaceful and civilian means and to continue its enrichment for civilian purposes can help get out of the current situation," the ambassador said.

Questioned on whether Iran could consider ending or curbing uranium enrichment operations in talks, he responded: "No" (John Irish, Reuters, March 8).

Iran is not required to grant international auditors access to its Parchin armed forces installation as a precondition for new multilateral talks to take place, the Obama administration indicated on Thursday.

Tehran this week tentatively offered to permit International Atomic Energy Agency officials to inspect the Parchin facility after denying access to high-level IAEA teams on two visits to the country this year. On Thursday, the six world powers in a collective message pressed Iran "to fulfill its undertaking to grant access to Parchin."

The joint message assumes "the IAEA will be able to get into Parchin soon, as well as all the other facilities that it wants to see," Agence France-Presse quoted U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland as saying.

Still, "there's not an expectation that that has to happen before talks start, although it should have already happened," she said (Agence France-Presse I/Now Lebanon, March 8).

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Robert Wood, though, on Thursday said Washington would "not sit idle" as Tehran "openly flouts its obligations and embarks on a path of deception and deceit," CNN quoted as saying on Thursday.

The agency in November reported indications that Iran intended to use the armed forces site for conducting explosive detonations relevant to a potential nuclear-weapon development effort (see GSN, Nov. 9, 2011).

Data provided by two diplomats this week ties the possible explosives operations to a separate effort to a build a nuclear-weapon trigger, according to an earlier report. The envoys suggested an effort is now under way to conceal evidence of trials involving the component (see GSN, May 25, 2011; CNN, March 8).

Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said Iran's “old restrictive approach that seeks to tie our hands” had caused him to grow less hopeful following Tehran's agreement to permit his agency access to Parchin, the New York Times reported on Thursday. The U.N. nuclear watchdog is responsible in part for verifying that atomic materials in non-nuclear weapons member nations are not diverted for military use, and it has for years been pursuing an investigation intended to confirm any links in past and present Iranian activities to possible nuclear-bomb development.

The agency “should be able to do its verification work unhampered,” Amano said.

“If too many restrictions are placed on the agency, we cannot do our job properly,” the official said, adding Iran had “refused to provide access to the Parchin site during the visits, as repeatedly requested by the agency” (Gladstone/Broad, New York Times, March 8).

Two IAEA checks of Parchin in 2005 did not turn up any suspicious material, but subsequent data necessitates another look, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog. One expert played down the potential for another visit to produce "incriminating" evidence, AFP reported.

Blocking the agency from inspecting the site "just raises suspicions. Iran would have been much more clever to have brought them to Parchin. ... It would have been a PR victory for Iran and they blew their chance," said Mark Fitzpatrick, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"Considering the fact that it is a military site, granting access is a time-consuming process and cannot be permitted repeatedly," the Iranian Embassy in Vienna stated this week (Simon Sturdee, Agence France-Presse II/Yahoo!News, March 9).

Iran's top delegate to the Vienna, Austria-based organization on Thursday said his country "is ready to re-engage with (the) IAEA," CNN reported.

"A new chapter is open," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said following the statement by the six powers.

Iran "will never ever suspend our nuclear activities," said the official, who described allegations over possible atomic-bomb experiments at the Parchin complex as "childish" and "ridiculous" (CNN).

Israel is consistently breaching a 1990 IAEA measure that "considers any attack or threat of attack against nuclear institutions or facilities as violation of the United Nations charter, statute of the IAEA and international law," Soltanieh added in remarks reported by the Xinhua News Agency. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials have publicly discussed the possibility of employing military force aimed at curbing Iran's suspected nuclear-weapon development activities.

"It's regrettable that the U.N. Security Council has no action on the base of this resolution and the IAEA has not done its responsibility appropriately to it," Soltanieh said (Xinhua News Agency, March 8).

President Obama did not himself this week propose to Netanyahu providing Israel with advanced armaments with applications in a potential attack against Iran, the White House said on Thursday.

"There was no such agreement proposed or reached" at Obama's meeting with Netanyahu on Monday, AFP quoted White House Press Secretary Jay Carney as saying.

Carney did not exclude the possibility that other officials have carried out such an exchange.

"We have obviously, as we've discussed, high-level cooperation between the Israeli military and the U.S. military and at other levels, with other agencies within their government and our government," he said.

The Obama's administration has offered Israel fuel carrier planes and additional "bunker-buster" weapons in exchange for a pledge by Tel Aviv not to strike Iranian atomic facilities before 2013, according to one report by the Israeli newspaper Maariv (Agence France-Presse III/Google News, March 8).

U.S. Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle said his nation could employ its largest bunker-buster weapon in a potential strike on Iranian atomic installations, Bloomberg reported on Thursday (see GSN, Nov. 16, 2011).

“All these things are on the table and being thought about as we do operational planning,” Carlisle said, outlining a number of attack possibilities (see GSN, March 8).

The 15-ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator has “great capability and we are continuing to make it better,” he said. “It is part of our arsenal if it is needed in that kind of scenario" (Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg, March 8).

Netanyahu on Thursday reaffirmed his country's refusal to tolerate a potential Iranian atomic arsenal, AFP reported.

"We cannot accept that Iran has nuclear weapons because that would represent a danger to the existence of our country," he said. "We have the right, but also the duty to defend ourselves."

Addressing his willingness to defer a potential attack as global economic pressure on Iran intensifies, he said: "I don't operate with a stopwatch in my hand" (Agence France-Presse IV/Yahoo!News, March 8).

"It's not a matter of days or weeks, but also not of years," United Press International quoted him as saying (United Press International, March 9).

Any Israeli decision to strike Iran would require approval from an unofficial "security cabinet" comprised of Netanyahu and seven other top officials, the Daily Beast reported on Friday (Eli Lake, Daily Beast, March 9).

"An attack on Iran before you are exploring all other approaches is not the right way," AFP on Friday quoted former Israeli intelligence head Meir Dagan as saying.

"And (President Obama) said openly that the military option is on the table and he is not going to let Iran become a nuclear state, and from my experience, I usually trust the president of the U.S.," the former official told the CBS news program "60 Minutes."

Iranian leaders are "no doubt ... considering all the implications of their actions," Dagan said. "They will have to pay dearly... and I think the Iranians at this point in time are ... very careful on the project."

Addressing whether Tel Aviv should wait for the Washington to move on the matter, he said: "If I prefer that someone will do it, I always prefer that Americans will do it" (Agence France-Presse V/Google News, March 9).

Still, Dagan suggested "more time" is available for seeking a nonmilitary resolution to the dispute, the Associated Press reported (Daniel Estrin, Associated Press/ABC News, March 9).

Representative Brad Sherman (D-Ca.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee, on Thursday submitted a bill intended to blacklist all Iranian financial institutions; bolster steps to penalize the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication if the international fund transfer network persists in offering services to Iranian banks; target entities in possession of assets for the Iranian Central Bank; and remove ambiguities from existing provisions against companies that insure Iranian operations.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was set to submit a comparable Senate proposal, Sherman said in a statement (U.S. Representative Brad Sherman release, March 8).

March 9, 2012

Iran will not consider the possibility of halting or slowing its refinement of uranium, despite its hopeful attitude toward discussions planned with six major governments, the Iranian ambassador to France said in comments reported by Reuters on Thursday.