- Continuing its policy of confrontation, the
Islamic Republic of Iran confirmed on the weekend that it had
resumed building nuclear centrifuges, but at the same
time said it was still holding back on enriching
uranium, although this assurance is open to serious
"We still continue suspension on uranium enrichment, meaning
that we have not resumed enrichment," Foreign
Affairs Minister Kamal Kharrazzi said at
the end of talks with his counterpart from neighboring Azerbaijan,
adding, however, that Tehran was not committed
to any agreement with three European powers -
the United Kingdom, France and Germany - on not building
An Iranian government spokesman,
Hamid Reza Asefi, said that since the Europeans did not
fulfill promises to close Iran's nuclear dossier at the
energy agency's June meeting, Iran felt no obligation to
abide by an agreement that demanded Iran suspend
manufacturing and assembling parts used in nuclear
Officials from the European Union's
"big three" met with an Iranian delegation in Paris last
Thursday and Friday, and emphasized their wish to see a
halt to Iran's work on the nuclear fuel cycle.
Washington strongly suspects Iran is using a
civilian nuclear program as a cover for a secret nuclear
weapons project. It has been lobbying for the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United
Nations' nuclear watchdog, to refer Iran's nuclear case
to the UN Security Council, which could impose
According to contacts who spoke to
Asia Times Online, the Iranians resumed enriching
uranium on June 19, contrary to the official line that
they had suspended this activity.
talks in Paris were to prepare the ground for a
September meeting of the board of governors of the IAEA,
which is expected to discuss Iran's program.
Neither the Iranians nor the Europeans would
comment in detail on the latest talks, although some
sources described them as "tense, but frank". A
spokesman for the British and German foreign affairs
ministries expressed "displeasure" at Iran's attitude,
saying that they "do not understand the Iranian moves".
the hardline evening daily Keyhan, one of
the mouthpieces of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader of
the Islamic Republic, said on Saturday in Paris that the
European trio demanded that Iran should agree to "never
get out of the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty]" and
inform the UK, France and Germany "systematically
and in an orderly manner" about its nuclear activities.
"According to a four-page document, Iran would
reiterate Britain, France and Germany's right of concern
over any deviation by Iran from its peaceful atomic
activities to military purposes," the paper said under
the title, "Does majlis [parliament] know?"
Observers told The Asia Times Online that
considering the position of Hoseyn Shariatmadari, the
editor of the newspaper, a high-ranking intelligence
officer specializing in interrogating political and
intellectual dissidents and an advisor to Khamenei, who
has the final word on all major issues, "he has easy
access to confidential and classified documents".
Iran was also required to cooperate with the
UK, France and Germany for detente in the Middle
East on the one hand and fighting terrorism in the
region on the other, and also coordinate the control of
all its imports and exports with the three
above-mentioned powers, Keyhan reported.
the Europeans are asking Iran is tantamount to an
unconditional surrender, worse than any of the
agreements the Western colonial powers imposed on Iran
under the dark eras of the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties,"
Keyhan added, deliberately twisting history by not
mentioning that the agreements it mentioned were imposed
by czarist Russia on the Qajar kings.
States, Israel and some European governments claim that
the final aim of the ruling Iranian ayatollahs is to use
civilian nuclear projects for producing the atomic bomb,
an allegation that Tehran rejects forcefully, insisting
that the projects are mainly for producing much-needed
But they do not explain that if
this is the case, why then not use natural gas to build
electrical power stations, as Iran has the largest
reserves after Russia and it is much cheaper, cleaner
and safer than atomic processes, particularly one based
on the aging and less reliable Russian technology that
"We were holding these [Paris] talks
to reach further understanding and create more
confidence in the direction that we are not seeking
nuclear weapons," Kharrazzi said. "At the same time, we
will insist on our legitimate rights," he added,
referring to building nuclear-powered electrical plants.
"Each side was holding firm on its earlier and
stated positions. It was deceiving, but no one was
expecting any real breakthrough," the source told Asia
Times Online on condition of anonymity.
Diplomats in Vienna revealed last week that
Iran had broken seals inspectors the IAEA had placed
on installations at the huge Natanz site, 350
kilometers south of Tehran, designed to enrich uranium
hexafluoride, which, when processed in centrifuges, can
be enriched to low levels for power generation or high
levels for nuclear weapons.
Experts say that while
one needed 2,500 centrifuges to produce military-grade
uranium, Natanz could accommodate 5,000 units.
"The Iranians might be telling the truth that
they are not making the atomic bomb, but the fact is
that their civilian programs are so sophisticated that
very quickly, maybe in less than six months, they could
also be used for military purposes," another source told
Asia Times Online on condition not to be named for
Talking to reporters during
his recent tour of the Middle East, US Secretary of
State Collin Powell made it clear that US patience on
the issue was running out, saying "it is more and more
likely" that the matter will have to be referred to the
"Now Iran has made it
clear that they do not intend to abide by all of
those commitments, my three foreign-minister colleagues [in
Europe] are concerned about this and they are working on
the problem, and I stay in close touch with them. But I
have made it clear to them that we believe they must
insist on their commitments being met. And they have to
factor it into any other actions the European Union
might be thinking of taking, either in the economic
sphere, the political sphere or elsewhere. It is a very
troubling development," Powell said.
with a flurry of recent statements by lawmakers from the
conservatives-controlled majlis, as well as articles in
hardline newspapers, Kharrazzi's ambiguous announcement
reflects Iran's growing displeasure with Europe's "Big
"The Americans and their European allies are
preparing the ground for the silent overthrow of the
Islamic Republic on the pretext of the Iranian nuclear
file, using it as a pressure instrument," warned Keyhan.
While threatening that they would not ratify the
Additional Protocol to the NPT, hardline members of the
majlis also press the government constantly to defy both
the IAEA and the Europeans, expel UN inspectors and
resume uranium enrichment.
"The protocol - that
allows nuclear inspectors to visit all Iranian nuclear
sites, installations and projects at any time and
without restrictions - had been imposed on Iran by the
evil chain made of the IAEA, the Americans, Europeans
and Zionist lobbies, despite all international laws and
regulations, including the IAEA's rules," Keyhan wrote,
adding that the final objective of Europe's "Big Three" was
"nothing less than destabilizing the Islamic Republic".
Last week, Mohamoud Mohammadi, deputy
chairman of the majlis' Foreign Policy and National
Security Commission, warned that the ratification of the
Additional Protocol was "conditional to the IAEA
approving our use of nuclear technology for peaceful
"The fear is that the Additional
Protocol could be used as a tool for political pressure.
If they treat our dossier in a purely technical fashion,
then we will cooperate," he said, adding, "The majority
of my colleagues in the parliament think this way."
And on Monday, the
official IRNA news agency published an interview with
Mohammad Mousavian, head of foreign policy of Iran's
Supreme Council on National Security, warning that
"either Europe agrees to close Iran's file at the
IAEA and transfer nuclear technology to Iran - in response Iran will
ratify the Additional Protocol - or we cancel all previous
agreements." He added that in the present circumstances, if the
matter of signing the protocols were raised in majlis
(controlled by the conservatives), it would be thrown out.
Safa Haeri is a Paris-based Iranian
journalist covering the Middle East and Central
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