On Friday, the Financial Times (UK) reported that Tony Blair had added his voice to those putting "intense pressure" on Iran to desist from resuming nuclear activities to which it claims the right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, warning that referral of the dispute to the U.N. Security Council could result.[1]  --  Saturday's Daily Times of Pakistan reported Iran had "blinked" as a result of the pressure, with the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was quoted on state television Friday as saying that "It is possible that this resumption is delayed for a while."[2]  --  The Daily Times took note of an article in Friday's Washington Post that reported an Iranian willingness to resume broken-off talks with the EU3 negotiators.[2]  --  According to an analysis published in Haaretz on Friday, "Israeli experts monitoring Iran's 'nuclear diplomacy' assume the Iranians are playing a game of nerves."[3]  --  According to Haaretz, "Vice President Dick Cheney . . . is in charge of the Iran file," which is certainly the impression one gets on this as on many issues, but one that is rarely expressed in U.S. media....


By Roula Khalaf (London), Gareth Smyth (Tehran), and Najmeh Bozorgmehr (Tehran)

Financial Times (UK)
May 13, 2005


Iran came under intense pressure yesterday to back away from its threat to resume sensitive nuclear experiments amid frantic diplomatic efforts to avert a collapse of negotiations between Tehran and European governments.

Tony Blair, prime minister, warned Tehran that his government would support the referral of the Iran dispute to the United Nations Security Council -- where diplomats say it could face punitive sanctions -- if it "breaches its obligations and undertakings."

Hossein Mousavian, a senior nuclear negotiator, suggested Iran was temporarily delaying its decision to resume the work at the Isfahan plant and that negotiations over this were "actively going on at a very high level." He said that Iran had yet to hand over a letter that had been expected to be delivered yesterday to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, apparently informing it of Iran's intention to restart the conversion of raw uranium into gas. This is a preparatory phase for the enrichment of uranium.

"If we don't reach a conclusion within these days we will definitely deliver the letter," Mr Mousavian said.

Hassan Rowhani, Iran's top security official, meanwhile issued a veiled warning that Iran could withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty if, as he said, it was deprived of its rights to develop a civilian nuclear program.

Mr. Blair's statement yesterday came after a warning from the foreign ministers of the U.K., France and Germany, the three European governments leading negotiations on a peaceful solution to the nuclear dispute. In a letter on Wednesday to Mr Rowhani, the foreign ministers said negotiations would end if work resumed at the Isfahan plant.

But they also left Iran a way out of the dispute, suggesting a ministerial-level meeting over the next two weeks to salvage the talks.

Although both Iran and the three European governments prefer to avoid a referral to the Security Council, resumption of work at Isfahan would trigger an escalation that might threaten to run out of control.

Iran has suspended uranium enrichment activities as a "goodwill" gesture to Europe during talks over its nuclear program. The EU3 have been seeking "objective guarantees" that the program is for peaceful purposes and not designed to develop weapons. But the EU3 also agreed with the U.S. in March they would support a referral to the Security Council if the talks were unsuccessful.

If Iran restarts the experiments, the European governments intend to call an emergency meeting of the IAEA governing board next week, a move that could give Iran a deadline to rescind its decision. If no compromise is reached, the EU3, backed by the US, would seek to declare Iran in breach of its NPT obligations and refer it to the Security Council.




* Tehran hints it may delay resumption of nuclear work; Says it is willing to negotiate with Europe again **

Agence France-Presse
May 14, 2005


TEHRAN -- Iran appeared Friday to be backing away from its threat to defy an agreement with the European Union and immediately resume sensitive nuclear work, after being warned of U.N. Security Council action.

“It is possible that this resumption is delayed for a while,” Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, a vice president and head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted as saying by state television.

He nevertheless said that Iran was “certain” to eventually resume certain activities tied to the conversion of uranium ore -- a precursor to enriching for either civilian or military purposes -- but did not give any date.

Iranian nuclear negotiator Cyrus Nasseri told AFP from the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that negotiations were continuing. A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, the body charged with handling the Islamic republic’s tough nuclear diplomacy, said Iran still wished to officially inform the IAEA that it was resuming conversion at a plant near the central city and ancient Persian capital of Isfahan.

The Isfahan facility is used to convert mined uranium “yellowcake” into uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) and then into uranium hexafluoride (UF6), a feed gas for centrifuges that carry out the highly sensitive enrichment process.

However the national security council spokesman, Ali Agha Mohammadi, also did not give a date. The previous day, officials said activities could restart “momentarily”.

“Iran is determined to submit to the IAEA a letter that concerns a resumption of a part of our suspended activities,” he was quoted as saying by state television.

He also said Iran was giving Britain, France and Germany -- with whom the suspension was agreed in November 2004 -- until the end of the day to “change their position” demanding Iran abandon fuel cycle work altogether.

Iran says it wants to master the enrichment process to produce fuel for reactors. But the technology could also be diverted to making the explosive core of a bomb.

In a letter to Tehran, Britain, France, and Germany warned that any violation of their accord with Iran would have “consequences” for the country.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that would entail supporting “referral to the U.N. Security Council if Iran breaches its undertakings and obligations.”

“Iran’s rights cannot be trampled on . . . because of the threats of three countries and a big power,” Mohammadi said, referring to the EU-3 and United States. “Iran is not afraid of its case being sent to the U.N. Security Council.”

The EU has offered Iran a package of incentives in return for “objective guarantees” it will not develop weapons.

But Iran has expressed frustration with the pace of the negotiations, which remain deadlocked over Iran’s ambition to master the full nuclear fuel cycle and European demands that Iran abandon such work altogether.

Talks with Europe: Iran has indicated its willingness to negotiate with European nations before deciding whether to resume its nuclear program, the Washington Post said Friday quoting U.S., European and Iranian diplomats.

The overture, mentioned in private by a senior Iranian diplomat who remained anonymous, followed a letter from Britain, France, and Germany warning Iran that if it broke a November 2004 agreement to freeze nuclear fuel cycle activities it would face “consequences.”

The Iranian diplomat, according to the daily, said his government had responded positively to a European offer for a four-way meeting to discuss the issue, which it wants to be held in Tehran in deference to Iranian officials who are preparing for the June 17 presidential elections.

The Washington Post said European officials had countered demanding guarantees that Iran is serious about its nuclear suspension before they send a delegation to Tehran for the four-way talks.



By Aluf Benn

May 13, 2005


Iran may postpone resumption of uranium reprocessing, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Organization, told Tehran state-run television Thursday.

Israeli experts monitoring Iran's "nuclear diplomacy" assume the Iranians are playing a game of nerves. Tehran continually explores the limits of patience in Europe and Washington, but is careful not to cross any red lines which would propel the Iranian nuclear issue into the U.N. Security Council.

Israel assumes that Iran's nuclear rhetoric will grow more radical in anticipation of its June 17 presidential elections. Iran recently threatened to resume part of the uranium enriching process, which was frozen under an agreement with Britain, Germany and France six months ago. The Europeans' sharp response -- threatening to halt the nuclear talks and go to the Security Council -- apparently made Tehran reconsider it actions.

Israel believes that, despite its radical, zealous image, Iran is very sensitive to international pressure and is reluctant to become a pariah state. This reluctance has been holding back Iran's effort to built a nuclear bomb, so far. Israel believes that Ayatollah Ali Khamanai and his comrades in Iran's leadership want to be part of the international community, rather than a boycotted, isolated state like North Korea.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been asking foreign leaders to bring Iran's case to the Security Council, to impose sanctions. Sharon fears that Iran will wear out the Europeans with futile discussions while secretly making process toward acquiring nuclear weapons. He suggests setting a deadline after which diplomatic talks would cease and the case would automatically move to the Security Council.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who is in charge of the Iran file, supports Sharon's proposal.

In Europe, there is a debate over the usefulness of threatening Iran with sanctions. The recent sharp rise in oil prices has enriched Iran by billions of dollars, providing it with an economic safety belt. With the current oil shortage, the world is hardly likely to give up buying Iranian oil.

Israelis respond that there is no need for economic sanctions. Iran can be hurt in other ways -- forbidding its planes to land in the West, depriving its diplomats of visas, limiting visits by delegations.

The Security Council is not a magic wand. The North Korean nuclear plan is lying on its desk and nothing has been happening for months. It's difficult for such an international body to make or enforce decisions.

The Iranians understand that no good can come for them by having their case transferred to the Security Council. Even a long process full of delays could end with sanctions and painful restrictions.

European threats have apparently succeeded in delaying Iran's uranium enrichment process for the time being. Russia has proposed a compromise -- taking control of all the raw material from Iran, and producing, in Russian plants, oil rods for the power nuclear reactor being built by Russian companies near Bushehr.

Neither the Iranians or the Europeans have responded to the Russian proposal, but this is an example of a possible way out if the controversy flares up again.