Iranian President Shuns European Deal on Uranium Enrichment

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The New York Sun

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council will meet this week to consider further action on Iran after the Islamic Republic over the weekend refused any deal that would require it to suspend the enrichment of uranium.

“Any offer requiring us to suspend our peaceful nuclear activities will be invalid,” President Ahmadinejad said yesterday, according to a state-run Iranian news agency, after returning from Indonesia on a state visit where he told reporters he would be open to direct talks with America, or any other nation, except for Israel.

The Iranian decision to spurn any incentive package from European nations comes after the International Atomic Energy Agency found new trace elements of uranium on lab equipment at the Physics Research Center at Lavizan-Shian.

Those samples were confirmed last month, but they suggest the Islamic Republic had been making nuclear fuel suitable for bombs and reactors even before it announced last summer plans to break its pledge to suspend uranium enrichment. In April, Iranian scientists announced they had successfully produced test amounts of nuclear fuel.

The diplomatic showdown at the United Nations has proven in recent weeks to be headed toward stalemate. While America, Britain, and France have all proposed a resolution that would declare Iran’s nuclear actions a threat to international peace and security, Russia and China (the two other veto wielding nations) have balked at measures this tough.

Complicating the matter, Iran’s president earlier this month wrote an open letter to President Bush asking him repent for his decision to invade Iraq.

While Israeli leaders have warned that an Iranian nuclear program could result in the country launching a first strike against the Jewish state, in the last week, Israel’s leaders have backed away from this rhetoric. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres even recanted recent remarks on the Iranian threat.

Despite the appearance of diplomatic movement, Iran’s position has not changed since November, when the country first spurned any offer that would require them to suspend uranium enrichment activities.

In February after the International Atomic Energy Agency referred Iran’s violations of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty to the U.N. Security Council, Iran reportedly was prepared to accept an offer to suspend all enrichment except for what it deemed research activities.

The deal from the Russians was rescinded the next month, however, after a meeting with Secretary of State Rice. Over the weekend Ms. Rice said America and the European allies would wait “a couple of weeks” before offering another round of incentives or sanctions to Iran.

One possible incentive reported yesterday by the Agence France-Presse would be security guarantees from the West, in exchange for the suspension of enrichment. America’s position for the last two years on security guarantees for Iran has been one of ambivalence. Ms. Rice and President Bush have often said that “all options are on the table,” diplomatic code for not ruling out military action, in response to questions about strikes against Iran.

Most Iranian opposition figures have opposed outright the prospect of an even limited military attack on Iranian nuclear positions. But last week, Amir Abbas Fakhravar said that he would not oppose them if there were no civilian casualties. “Limited attacks on nuclear plants, as long as there are no casualties, would be helpful to reduce the current Iranian government and to help form an official movement,” he said in an interview from a neighboring country after leaving Iran in April. He added that military strikes against Iranian nuclear positions were not a question for the opposition since America and Europe would only take that decision based on their security interests and not the interests of Iran’s opposition.

The New York Sun

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