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U.N. Powers Dragging Out Atomic Stalemate: Iranian Foreign Minister

Iran's top diplomat on Monday said six major governments had strayed from common ground established with his government in the initial of three meetings held this year as part of efforts to resolve a dispute over Iranian atomic activities, Reuters reported (see GSN, July 10).

Still, Iran is completely dedicated to defusing the standoff, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the news agency.

Iranian officials held separate sets of discussions in April, May and June with delegates from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The meetings and a lower-level session convened last week were intended to address suspicions that Tehran's nuclear efforts are geared toward establishment of a nuclear-weapon capability; the Persian Gulf regional power insists its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful.

The European Union, which has represented the six nations, is slated to hold a new discussion with Iran on July 24 (see GSN, July 9).

"For some reason whenever there is light at the end of the tunnel, somebody tries to cover up even that dim light," Salehi said. "The continuation of this (deadlock) ... is not in the interest of the international community, not in the interests of my country and not in the interest of the region."

Salehi added that his country "is ready to talk about" ending manufacturing of 20 percent-enriched uranium, "but of course it should be reciprocated properly."

The United States and allied governments have pressed Iran to end production of the higher-enriched material, which they fear could enable faster preparation of bomb-capable uranium with an enrichment level of roughly 90 percent. Tehran insists the effort is intended to provide fuel for a medical research reactor.

To consider complying with the demand, Iran must receive sufficient material to operate a number of additional medical isotope production sites that have yet to be built, Salehi said.

The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany have also called on Iran to relinquish more than 220 pounds of stored 20-percent material and to shutter the underground Qum enrichment plant, according to earlier reporting. Tehran, in turn, has pressed for curbs on financial penalties as well as acknowledgement of its uranium refinement efforts as legal under global statutes.

Outside observers were incorrect to suggest Iran had sought to conceal incriminating evidence at its Parchin armed forces installation, and the International Atomic Energy Agency could confirm Tehran's account in an eventual audit of the site, Salehi added (see GSN, July 3).

The U.N. nuclear watchdog suspects the Parchin site to have housed a tank for performing nuclear weapon-usable combustion studies. On multiple occasions this year, the agency sought access to the installation without success.

Any IAEA trip to the base would be contingent on a more encompassing deal between Tehran and the U.N. organization, the foreign minister said (see GSN, June 8; Kasolowsky/George, Reuters I, July 10).

Meanwhile, punitive economic measures adopted against Iran this month received a dismissive response on Wednesday from the country's supreme religious leader, Reuters reported. An EU ban on Iranian petroleum took effect at the beginning of last week.

"The Iranian nation ... has stood up to all plots and sanctions and has advanced to the extent that today we are 100 times stronger compared with 30 years ago," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated. "These days Westerners are being sensational about sanctions but they don't understand that they themselves vaccinated Iran through their sanctions imposed over the last 30 years" (Marcus George, Reuters II, July 11).

Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi on Tuesday said "it is the condition set by the Majlis (parliament) that, for negotiations to continue, the sanctions must be lifted," Agence France-Presse reported (Agence France-Presse/Daily Star, July 11).

One-time Iranian interior minister Abdollah Nouri urged Tehran to put its atomic activities up to a popular vote, the London Guardian reported on Wednesday.

"The harms, disadvantages and pressures caused by the Iranian nuclear program have got out of control and the establishment should make a reasonable and wise decision to find a way out of this deadlock in order to protect the country's national interests," dissident Internet media quoted Nouri as saying.

"With regard to the nuclear issue and finding the solution that best serves the country's interests in the current situation, we should ask the opinion of our experts, economists and politicians and all the commentators who wish good will for Iran," the former official added. "Our constitution considers referendum as a solution for such important and crucial issues" (Saeed Kamali Dehghan, London Guardian, July 11).

Meanwhile, United India Insurance has backed plans to insure Indian vessels transporting Iranian petroleum, the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday quoted a pair of insiders as saying. The firm General Insurance would reportedly reinsure ships under the deal.

The plan could offer an alternative to European insurance, which the European Union has prohibited since July 1 for shipments of Iranian petroleum (Anirban Chowdhury, Wall Street Journal, July 10).

 

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