Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has named the former director of the state broadcast media, Ali Larijani, as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, where he will be responsible for Iran's nuclear program and policy. -- AFP called the ectomorphic, dedicated, and uncharismatic hardliner who was once a deputy commander in the Revolutionary Guards "a staunch critic of troubled talks with the European Union," and said his appointment is " likely to intensify international concerns following the Islamic Republic's rejection of European incentives for abandoning ultra-sensitive fuel cycle work." -- And it's true that in his first interview in his new capacity Larijani reiterated Iran's rejection of the IAEA resolution of Aug. 11 and said that "the Iranian government is determined to preserve the nuclear fuel production cycle," the Herald Sun of Melbourne reported. -- But as South Africa's news agency noted, this "appeared to signal no immediate break with policies under former reformist president Mohammad Khatami." -- DPA reported that hardliners in Iran were calling for the resumption of uranium enrichment at Natanz and that a "student group, which included many women and clerics," numbering 1,000 (according to SA, 500; to Reuters, 300), "formed a human chain around the uranium conversion plant in Isfahan in central Iran and vowed to fight 'until the end' to maintain Iran's controversial nuclear program," but that there was no sign that Larijani was inclined in this direction: "Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani called for diplomatic channels to be pursued before resuming enrichment activities in Natanz." -- Reuters, also emphasizing Larijani's conciliatory tone, quoted him as saying: "We can reach a conclusion with a win-win situation defined for both sides . . . We should try to solve the problem in a friendly way and our objective is still preserving the fuel cycle." -- In an editorial, the Japan Times noted the need to take into account Iran's own security issues: "[S]uccess depends on . . . [Tehran's] realizing that nuclear weapons do not enhance national security, but detract from it. For their part, [Iran]'s negotiating partners must recognize -- and respond to -- the fundamental insecurities that drive it to seek a nuclear weapon. In other words, the focus should be on demand-side solutions to the proliferation problem." -- But with George W. Bush having installed Iran hawk John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and Vice President Dick Cheney and other U.S. neoconservatives known to be bent upon the destruction of Iran's nuclear program and, if possible, of the Iranian regime itself, the prospects for such an approach would appear to be nil....
IRAN NAMES HARD-LINER TO RUN NUCLEAR POLICY
** Larijani known to be staunch critic of EU talks **
August 16, 2005
TEHRAN -- Iran named an outspoken hard-liner to run its nuclear policy in a move likely to intensify international concerns following the Islamic Republic's rejection of European incentives for abandoning ultra-sensitive fuel cycle work.
New President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad nominated the former director of the state broadcast media, Ali Larijani, as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top policy-making body.
Larijani, one of eight candidates in the first round of Iran's presidential election in June, is a trusted aide of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He is on the record as a staunch critic of troubled talks with the European Union on providing reassurances that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively civil.
He was dismissive of a package of incentives that the EU offered earlier this month in return for Iran giving up ultra-sensitive nuclear fuel cycle work, deriding it as being asked to "give up a pearl for a sweetie."
His nomination to replace Hassan Rowhani at the head of nuclear policy comes at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has demanded that Iran renew a nine-month freeze on uranium ore conversion, and is likely to intensify fears of a new crisis.
It followed the unveiling of Ahmadinejad's new Cabinet a day earlier, which includes a number of hard-liners in key posts.
Thin with a graying beard, Larijani, 48, has earned a reputation as a dedicated but rather uncharismatic servant of the regime.
A veteran deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards -- the ideological army set up after the 1979 revolution to defend the clerical regime -- Larijani also served as deputy minister of the Guards when such a ministry existed.
He has also served as a minister of culture and Islamic guidance, and in 1994 was appointed by Khamenei as head of the state television and radio network -- another bastion of the religious right. There, Larijani Islamized programming and oversaw production of a series called Hoviat ["Identity"], which harshly criticized moderate and secular intellectuals.
Despite the new appointment, outgoing foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi insisted Iran was ready to resume talks with the European Union after its decision to resume uranium conversion, albeit on condition that its "legitimate rights" were respected.
"We are ready to negotiate under any circumstances but if our dossier is referred to the Security Council with political motivations it will create restrictions for us," Kharrazi said.
"Brave Iranians, accustomed to foreign threats and pressures, will never give up their legitimate rights," he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi has already said that Iran's resumption of uranium conversion is "not negotiable" despite the IAEA resolution passed last week urging the renewed suspension of all nuclear fuel cycle work.
Iranian media carried the text of a decree from the Ahmadinejad naming Larijani to the post.
"Knowing your commitment, your scientific experience, you value in previous executive positions and your membership of the council for many years [as one of two personal representatives of Khamenei], I name you council secretary," it said.
"I expect you to bring a new dynamism to the council through your well-crafted and innovative policies and by relying on the strength of people possessing faith and ability and to make the right decisions to guarantee national rights and interests in the defense of the Islamic revolution and the country's security and integrity."
IRAN DEFIES WORLD OVER NUKES
By Laurent Lozano
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)
August 17, 2005
Iran's new hardline nuclear boss Ali Larijani vowed Tehran will press on with nuclear fuel work as protestors ovenight formed a human chain at a processing plant at the center of its standoff with the West.
Larijani signaled in his first interview since being named as Supreme National Security Council head that Iran would not roll back its August 8 resumption of uranium conversion but that he wanted to continue talks with the European Union.
"Iran does not accept the resolution" which the International Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEA) passed last week urging Tehran to suspend all such activities, he told the Shargh newspaper.
The Europeans "must understand that the Iranian government is determined to preserve the nuclear fuel production cycle", said Larijani, who took over from pragmatist Hassan Rowhani.
"We insist on Natanz," Iran's uranium enrichment plant, "but this must go through the channel of negotiations," he said.
He acknowledged it was "theoretically possible" that the Islamic republic could be referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its controversial nuclear activities.
A program published said the new government would press on with the "full acquisition of the technology for producing nuclear fuel for peaceful ends and the necessary investment to make the country independent in the field of nuclear technology while respecting international treaties."
Iran is at loggerheads with the international community over its nuclear program after resuming uranium ore conversion -- the precursor to enrichment -- ending a nine-month freeze agreed during talks with the Europeans.
Accused by the United States of seeking nuclear weapons, Tehran insists it has the right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In defiance of the West, Iran last week removed the IAEA seals at its controversial conversion plant in Isfahan, even though U.S. President George W. Bush has refused to rule out the use of force against Tehran.
IRAN TO PRESS ON WITH NUKE WORK
August 16, 2005
TEHRAN -- Iran's new hardliner nuclear boss, Ali Larijani, vowed that Tehran would press on with nuclear fuel work as protestors formed a human chain on Tuesday at a uranium facility at the centre of its standoff with the West.
Larijani signalled in his first interview since being named on Monday as supreme national security council head that Iran would not roll back its August 8 resumption of uranium conversion, but that he wanted to continue talks with the European Union.
He said: "Iran does not accept the resolution" which the International Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEA) passed last week, urging Tehran to suspend all such activities.
The Europeans "must understand that the Iranian government is determined to preserve the nuclear fuel production cycle."
CHANNEL OF NEGOTIATIONS
Larijani took over from pragmatist Hassan Rowhani.
He said: "We insist on Natanz," the site of Iran's uranium enrichment factory, "but this must go through the channel of negotiations."
He acknowledged it was "theoretically possible" that the Islamic republic could be referred to the United Nations security council for possible sanctions about its controversial nuclear activities.
Iran was at loggerheads with the international community about its nuclear program after resuming the uranium conversion activities, ending a nine-month freeze agreed on during talks with the Europeans led by Rowhani.
NUKE TECHNOLOGY FOR PEACEFUL PURPOSES
Accused by the United States of seeking nuclear weapons, Tehran insisted it had the right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In defiance of the West, Iran last week removed the IAEA seals at its controversial nuclear facility in Isfahan, even though United States President George W Bush had refused to rule out the use of force against Tehran.
About 500 demonstrators formed a human chain on Tuesday outside the gates of the plant in Isfahan, 400km south of the capital.
Protesters chanted: "Nuclear energy is our right. Let's stop the negotiations" with the EU.
They cried, carrying a banner which read "Isfahan is only the beginning."
The demonstrators were adamant that Iran should not bow to pressure.
IRAN 'WILL NOT MAKE THE WAR'
Ali Naderi, a 22-year-old political sciences student, said: "We know all about economic sanctions. They have taught us to cope on our own.
"It's not us who will make war, but neither war nor sanctions frighten us."
Before his appointment, Larijani was on record as a staunch critic of the troubled talks with the EU on providing reassurances that Iran's nuclear program was exclusively civilian in return for a package of incentives.
But, his first comments as secretary of Iran's top policy-making body, the supreme national security council, he appeared to signal no immediate break with policies under former reformist president Mohammad Khatami.
Larijani said negotiations were "the right method."
IRANIAN STUDENTS VOW TO FIGHT FOR NUCLEAR RIGHT
August 16, 2005
ISFAHAN/TEHRAN -- More than 1,000 Iranian students on Tuesday formed a human chain around the uranium conversion plant in Isfahan in central Iran and vowed to fight "until the end" to maintain Iran's controversial nuclear program.
The student group, which included many women and clerics, vowed to resist any foreign pressure, including military strikes by the United States, and fight for Iran's right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology.
The students condemned the resolution by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to close down the Isfahan plant as illegal and politically motivated.
They shouted death slogans against the U.S., Israel, and the European Union trio of Britain, France, and Germany whom they accused of "depriving" Iran of nuclear technology.
In the final communiqué, the students said that "both the government and the people of Iran are standing before a historic test for defending their independence and avoiding humiliating discrimination by the West."
The students condemned the IAEA as "a guardian of U.S. interests" and stressed that the only way to confront Western plots was "resistance and insistence on revolutionary goals and values".
Iranian officials have so far rejected last Thursday's IAEA resolution to close down the Isfahan plant again.
Hardliners in the parliament even urged the government to also re-open within a month the neighboring Natanz plant where the converted uranium from Isfahan can be enriched.
Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani called for diplomatic channels to be pursued before resuming enrichment activities in Natanz.
He told the Tehran daily Sharq on Tuesday that although Iran would not accept the IAEA resolution on closing down the Isfahan plant and proceed with the conversion process, work at the Natanz plant needed negotiations with the E.U. first.
Larijani however stressed, in line with other Iranian officials, that the country must have its own nuclear fuel cycle and that the Europeans must understand and respect this legal demand by Iran.
In the Isfahan facility, yellowcake, or uranium ore, is converted into uranium hexafluoride gas and stored inside the plant until a political agreement is reached to feed the gas into centrifuges for uranium enrichment in the Natanz plant.
The process is used, according to Iran, to produce fuel for local nuclear plants, but the same process, at a higher enrichment grade, could also be used for making atomic bombs.
Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi said the latest reports that contamination and traces of bomb-grade uranium found in Iranian plants are most probably from the country of origin (Pakistan).
This proves Iran's consistent claims that its nuclear programs are peaceful, Assefi said.
The spokesman said Iran will not accept the IAEA resolution and will for the time being wait for the September 3 report by IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei to the agency's board of governors.
Assefi reiterated that there was no legal justification for taking the Iran case to the U.N. Security Council as the Islamic state has only realized its legal right within the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA additional protocol.
The spokesman hoped that the IAEA would act next month within its own technical criteria and not bow to political pressure.
The ISNA news agency further reported Tuesday that Iran told the IAEA it would not resume uranium enrichment but also not stop the conversion process in the Isfahan plant.
Ali Aqamohammadi, the spokesman of the nuclear delegation team in Iran's National Security Council, told ISNA that upon this framework, Iran would also be ready to continue talks with the European Union trio of Britain, France, and Germany.
He added that, despite the E.U. trio's opposition to military options against Iran over the dispute, all three states insist on bringing the Iran case before the United Nations Security Council should Tehran did not close down the Isfahan plant.
NEW IRAN ATOMIC NEGOTIATOR BACKS TALKS TO SOLVE ROW
August 16, 2005
TEHRAN -- Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator has given his backing to talks to resolve its atomic standoff with the West, while insisting that Tehran will not give up its plans to develop a full nuclear fuel cycle.
"Iran deems it a principle to continue talks and it accepts negotiation as the right manner," Ali Larijani, installed as secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council on Monday, told the Sharq daily in an interview published on Tuesday.
European diplomats have expressed concern that Larijani, a conservative close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will adopt a tougher line on the nuclear issue than his predecessor Hassan Rohani.
Larijani takes over the nuclear portfolio with Iran in the international spotlight after removing U.N. seals at a nuclear facility and resuming uranium conversion -- a process which yields material that can be used to make atomic bombs.
Iran, which says its nuclear program will only be used to generate electricity, rejected a resolution adopted by the U.N. atomic watchdog last week calling on it to halt all nuclear fuel work.
But Larijani said a solution to the dispute could be found.
"We can reach a conclusion with a win-win situation defined for both sides . . . We should try to solve the problem in a friendly way and our objective is still preserving the fuel cycle," he said.
Iran angered the European Union and the United States by resuming uranium conversion at the Isfahan plant on August 8 after rejecting an EU offer of political and economic incentives in return for giving up its nuclear program.
Iranian officials have said they will never suspend work at the plant again and Tehran now wants to discuss resuming the most sensitive part of the nuclear fuel cycle -- uranium enrichment -- at its facility in Natanz.
"Natanz is a part of our fuel cycle and we insist on it. However, it should pass the channel of negotiations," Larijani said.
About 300 Iranian students gathered at the Isfahan nuclear plant on Tuesday to stage a noisy demonstration in support of Iran's nuclear program.
THE OTHER NUCLEAR CRISIS RESUMES
August 16, 2005
Iran appears to be headed -- once again -- toward conflict with the rest of the world over its nuclear programs. Tehran has rejected a European proposal that was designed to end concerns over its determination to develop facilities that would allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon -- an objective the Iranian government says it does not have. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world's nuclear watchdog, last week expressed serious concern over the program, but it has given the parties a few more weeks to find a solution. A great deal rides on that solution -- including perhaps the ultimate contours of any agreement with North Korea.
There are many questions surrounding Iran's nuclear energy program, not least of which is why a country so rich in energy resources even needs such an effort. Iranian officials have long maintained that Iran should diversify its energy supplies and that it has a right to do so as a member of the IAEA and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran's credibility has been eroded by the steady drip of revelations that show Tehran has been less than forthcoming in its declarations to the IAEA, the discovery of undisclosed facilities, and programs and research seemingly at odds with a peaceful program. Nonetheless, the IAEA has only expressed concern over Iranian activities; it has yet to find Iran in violation of its NPT obligations.
The key concern is Iran's intent to develop the capacity to enrich and reprocess uranium. This capability is needed to ensure that Iran has fuel for its nuclear-power reactors -- natural uranium is not sufficient -- and to dispose of the waste generated by the production of energy. Enriched uranium can also be used for a bomb, however, and there is no way to ensure that the fuel developed for peaceful purposes is not diverted for weapons. There is also concern over the spent fuel; it too could be processed to provide materials to make a bomb.
Last November, Iran suspended its enrichment program while it began negotiations with the European troika -- Britain, France and Germany -- over ways to allay these concerns. Negotiations focused on ensuring a supply of nuclear fuel and other trade and economic incentives for Iran that would better integrate it into the world economy; backing for Iran's membership in the World Trade Organization was one component of the deal. Tehran has become increasingly frustrated with the pace of those talks and has said that the lack of progress obliged it to resume enrichment activities. That threat prodded the troika to up their offer to include more generous political and economic incentives, as well as more advanced nuclear technologies.
That still was not enough for Tehran. While the European Union proposal guarantees a source of fuel, it does not acknowledge Iran's right to enrich uranium, which is inherent in the NPT. As a result, Tehran has asked IAEA inspectors to return to Iran to observe the removal of seals on reprocessing equipment so that work could resume. (The IAEA obliged.) Iran has said that it will continue to honor IAEA safeguards, however.
That stalemate brought Iran before the IAEA board of directors last week. Meeting at the behest of the EU troika, the board expressed "serious concern" over the resumption of nuclear activities and set a Sept. 3 deadline for Iran to stop the uranium conversion activities. If there is no agreement by then, the board could refer the issue to the United Nations Security Council, which could then impose sanctions on Iran. At this time, however, all parties remain committed to a diplomatic solution.
The reluctance of the IAEA to take more serious action reflects a critical division on the board: Despite concerns about Iranian intentions, the NPT allows all countries the right to reprocess uranium as long as it does not violate its treaty obligations. There is no proof that Iran is cheating and therefore Tehran maintains the right to reprocess. The success of any deal with Iran ultimately depends on squaring that particular circle.
Any solution will also be closely watched by North Korea, too. Pyongyang also demands the right to maintain a peaceful nuclear-energy program and North Korean pride will dictate that it not be singled out. In other words, any deal with Tehran will serve as a benchmark for negotiations with Pyongyang.
In both cases, success depends on the governments in Tehran and Pyongyang realizing that nuclear weapons do not enhance national security, but detract from it. For their part, each country's negotiating partners must recognize -- and respond to -- the fundamental insecurities that drive it to seek a nuclear weapon. In other words, the focus should be on demand-side solutions to the proliferation problem