EU tells defiant Iran it "must" suspend atom activity (REUTERS) By Fredrik Dahl and Justyna Pawlak VIENNA/BRUSSELS 05/07/12 2:29pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - The European Union told Iran on Monday it must suspend
uranium enrichment, a few days after the Islamic state ruled out
doing just that, as Tehran and the West engaged in diplomatic shadow-
boxing ahead of nuclear talks this month.
The United States called on Iran to take "urgent practical steps" to
build confidence during negotiations with world powers on Tehran´s
nuclear program, which Washington and its allies suspect is a bid to
develop an atomic bomb capability.
Iran, attending an international conference in Vienna alongside its
Western foes, for its part accused the United States of supporting
Israel´s atomic activities. The Jewish state is widely assumed to
hold the Middle East´s only nuclear arsenal.
Iran and the six major powers resumed discussions last month in
Istanbul after a gap of more than a year - a chance to ease
escalating tension and avert the threat of a new Middle East war -
and both sides described the atmosphere as positive.
The next meeting between the powers - the United States, France,
Britain, China, Russia and Germany - and Iran is to take place on May
23 in the Iraqi capital. Iranian officials say they are "optimistic"
about making progress.
But with Iran seeking an end to sanctions and Western states
reluctant to prematurely ease the pressure they credit with bringing
Tehran to the negotiating table, diplomats are already playing down
the chances of a settlement in Baghdad.
"A lot of people are talking the Baghdad talks up. We are also
hopeful. But it is important to remain realistic," one European
diplomat said. "This will be a start, not an end."
Western officials fear Iran may be hardening its demand for relief
from sanctions which have been tightened over the past year to target
its oil exports, and say this round of talks will at best serve as a
stepping stone towards a final deal.
They want to see Iran take firm action to allay their concerns over
its nuclear program and curb its processing of uranium before
considering relaxing punitive steps on Tehran.
With an EU embargo on Iranian crude due to start in full on July 1,
Tehran is likely to push hard on the sanctions issue.
But, a diplomat said: "I fear the Iranians misunderstand the nature
of European decision-making. The embargo is a decision that´s already
At the meeting in Vienna to discuss the 189-nation nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty (NPT), U.S. envoy Robert Wood expressed concern
over what he called "Iran´s persistent failure" to comply with its
obligations under the pact.
"We seek a sustained process that produces concrete results, and call
on Iran to take urgent practical steps to build confidence and lead
to compliance with all its international obligations," Wood told
The West wants verifiable assurances from Tehran that it is not
seeking to develop atomic arms - for example, by accepting much more
intrusive U.N. inspections and limiting its enrichment capacity.
WEST SAYS IRAN STONEWALLING
Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action to
prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons if diplomacy fails to
resolve the long-running row.
Iran denies having a weapons agenda, saying it is enriching uranium
solely for peaceful energy purposes, not for bombs.
Iran "is strongly committed to the objective of preventing
proliferation of nuclear weapons under its NPT obligations," Iranian
Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said in a speech.
Soltanieh told Reuters last week that Iran would "never" suspend
enrichment, which can have both civilian and military purposes, and
saw no reason to close the Fordow underground site which it has used
to expand higher-grade nuclear activity.
The U.N. Security Council has demanded in a series of resolutions
since 2006 that Iran suspend all enrichment.
Many analysts say a negotiated solution will require compromises on
both sides: Iran would be allowed to continue some lower-level
enrichment if it accepts much more intrusive U.N. nuclear inspections
to make sure it has no weapons aims.
But the EU, which includes European heavyweights France, Germany and
Britain, showed no sign of backing down on the suspension demand in
its statement to the Vienna meeting.
"Iran must suspend its enrichment activities and heavy water related
projects, including research and development," Gyorgyi Martin
Zanathy, head of the EU delegation, said.
Daniel Keohane of FRIDE, a European think-tank, said the best outcome
in Baghdad would be a "fleshing out of issues" that would be a part
of a deal but the "danger is that the Iranian position can harden" in
The week before the broader political negotiations take place in
Baghdad, the U.N. nuclear agency and Iran will hold a new round of
discussions in Vienna on May 14-15 after two meetings earlier this
year failed to make any headway.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wants Iran to address
questions raised in a report it issued last November detailing what
it said were suspected Iranian research and development activities
relevant to making nuclear weapons.
Iran has dismissed the allegations as fabricated.
Wood, the U.S. envoy to the U.N. agency, said: "We are concerned that
Iran has not agreed to grant the IAEA access to all relevant sites,
information, documents and persons necessary to resolve questions
about its nuclear program." (Editing by Jon Hemming) (© Thomson
Reuters 2012. 05/07/12)
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