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memri
February 23, 2005 No.
209

Iran Seeks EU Consent for Modeling Its Nuclear Program on the 'Japanese/German Model' – i.e. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Capabilities Three Months Short of a Bomb

By: A. Savyon*
Introduction

As predicted, the gaps between Iran and the EU3 – namely, Germany, France and Britain – have not been narrowed in the three months of negotiations since last November's 'Paris Agreement.' [1]

The claim that Iran has committed itself to permanently cease its uranium-enrichment activities was inaccurate. Iran insists that its unilateral commitment to the EU3 is a temporary, voluntary and non-binding one, with an expiration date of March 15. [2]

With the approach of March 15, Iran is insistent upon enriching uranium, stating that it is its right and that its uranium-enrichment program is meant only to power its nuclear reactors for civilian purposes. Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, however, has recently said: "We should not believe that the Iranians only want to use their nuclear technology for civilian purposes. The country wants an atomic bomb." [3] Iran categorically rejects the European demand that it permanently cease its uranium-enrichment activities and rely upon nuclear fuel supplied by European sources. [4] Iran is also refusing to relinquish its heavy-water reactor, as the Europeans have requested.

In addition, on numerous occasions Iran has declared its intention to attain independent nuclear fuel cycle capabilities, thereby making the production of nuclear weapons possible as well.

In light of the impending crisis with Europe on March 15 and the mounting American pressures, Iran is trying to seek EU consent for modeling its nuclear program on the "Japanese/German model," i.e. attaining nuclear fuel cycle capabilities up to three months short of a bomb. Japan and Germany, which are parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), are considered to have nuclear fuel cycle capabilities, and it is estimated that if they so desired, they could attain nuclear weapons within three months. In a visit to Berlin on February 17, Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi proposed the Japanese/German model as the basis for Iran-EU negotiations. In a meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Kharrazi elaborated on Iran's perspective how to resolve the dispute with the EU3: "Peaceful nuclear plants in Germany and Japan can serve as a good model for Iran's nuclear projects, and serve as the basis for any round of talks in that respect." [5]

Another critical deadline awaits Iran in the May 2005 NPT review conference. Iran has announced its rejection of IAEA Director-General Muhammad Al-Baradei's initiative for a five-year moratorium on uranium-enrichment activities, which is expected to be proposed at the coming NPT conference in May. Foreign Minister Kharrazi told the chairman of the NPT review conference, Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, that developing states, including Iran, would not accept any new discrimination in that conference. [6]

In an interview with the conservative Iranian daily Jaam-e Jam, Supreme National Security Council Information Committee Director Ali Agha-Mohammadi said: "In the talks with Europe, we are conquering position after position. The ultimate goal is to preserve [our nuclear] fuel cycle, and we have a long way to go until we achieve it." [7]

Sirus Nasseri, t he head of the technical and nuclear committee of Iran's team of negotiators with the EU3, said: "Iran plans to follow up its nuclear fuel production plan completely... The Europeans have good will but still lack necessary political support to reach an agreement... A final agreement in the new round of talks will be based on continuation of [uranium] enrichment by Iran. We will give the Europeans a chance to adopt such a stance but this opportunity will not last forever." [8]

To view further excerpts from the two interviews, see the Appendices at the end of this report.

Toward Crisis: Iran's Insistence on Nuclear Fuel Cycle Capabilities

Statements made by top-ranking Iranian officials in recent weeks suggest that Iran is taking a harder line on its nuclear policy, as the March 15 deadline draws close. [9]

The most recent round of talks between Iran and the EU3 ended last week without tangible results. Iran's Leader Ali Khamenei and other top-ranking officials have indicated their dissatisfaction with the slow pace of progress made in the negotiations and maintain that the Europeans are not fulfilling their commitments.

Iran is insistent upon enriching uranium, stating that it is its right and that its uranium-enrichment program is meant only to power its nuclear reactors for civilian purposes. Iran categorically rejects the European demand that it permanently cease its uranium-enrichment activities and rely upon nuclear fuel supplied by European sources. [10] Iran is also refusing to relinquish its heavy-water reactor, as the Europeans have requested. In addition, on numerous occasions Iran has declared its intention to attain independent nuclear fuel cycle capabilities, with the rationale that this is necessary for economic reasons. It should be noted, however, that the attainment of independent nuclear fuel cycle capabilities makes the production of nuclear weapons possible as well. Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht has recently said: "We should not believe that the Iranians only want to use their nuclear technology for civilian purposes. The country wants an atomic bomb." [11]

In a message delivered on the occasion of the Shiite holiday Eid Ghadir, [12] Iran's Leader Ali Khamenei said: "We are serious in the [nuclear] negotiations with the Europeans, but the Europeans should prove that they are serious too... Unfortunately this has not been the case yet... If the Europeans want to reach a real agreement with Iran on this issue, they must diminish the influence of the U.S. and Zionist pressure... The years that the British ruled the Persian Gulf and Iran during the 19th and 20th centuries... are gone, and now, the Europeans are faced with a great, alert and cultured nation... On the other hand, if the Iranian officials sense that the Europeans are not serious, the current process will be changed." [13]

On January 13, 2005, Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rowhani, who is in charge of Iran's nuclear negotiations, stated that "Iran will not allow any country to put a stop to our uranium-enrichment activities," and that "In the near future, Iran will be resuming its enrichment activities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency." [14] Later he issued a statement on Iran's nuclear policy in general, saying that: "Iran will not accept limitations on its undeniable right to develop nuclear energy which are not sanctioned by international law and outside its commitments under the nuclear NPT and transparent cooperation with the IAEA." [15]

In an interview with the conservative daily Jaam-e Jam, Iran's Supreme National Security Council Information Committee Director Ali Agha-Mohammadi said: "In the talks with Europe, we are conquering position after position. The ultimate goal is to preserve [our nuclear] fuel cycle and we have a long way to go until we achieve it." [16]

Regarding the European proposal to provide Iran with a light-water reactor in exchange for relinquishing its heavy-water reactor in Arak, currently under construction, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi announced that Iran would never accept the proposal, but added that it would "view Europe's cooperation with Iran on a light-water reactor as positive." [17]

I ran's Atomic Energy Organization's Deputy Head for International Affairs and Planning, Muhammad Sa'idi, said the issue of suspension of uranium enrichment is non-negotiable. He further stated that the Iranian parliament would enact legislation requiring Iran's Atomic Energy Organization "to produce part of the nuclear fuel needed for the country's reactors." [18] Such legislation would put an end to the Iranian commitment to a temporary suspension of uranium-enrichment activities made to the EU3 in November 2004.

Sirus Nasseri, t he head of the technical and nuclear committee of Iran's team of negotiators with the EU3, said: "Iran plans to follow up its nuclear fuel production plan completely... The Europeans have good will but still lack necessary political support to reach an agreement... A final agreement in the new round of talks will be based on continuation of [uranium] enrichment by Iran. We will give the Europeans a chance to adopt such a stance but this opportunity will not last forever." [19]

In a related development, Iran has announced its rejection of IAEA Director-General Muhammad El-Baradei's initiative for a five-year moratorium on uranium-enrichment activities, an initiative that is expected to be proposed at the coming NPT review conference, scheduled to take place in May 2005. Foreign Minister Kharrazi told the chairman of the NPT review conference, Sergie de Queiroz Duarte, that developing states, including Iran, would not accept any new discrimination in that conference. [20]

Iran Seeks EU Consent for Modeling Its Nuclear Program on the 'Japanese/German Model' – i.e. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Capabilities Three Months Short of a Bomb

In a statement characteristic of Iran's brinkmanship policy, Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi proposed the 'Japanese/German model' as the basis for Iran-EU negotiations, i.e. attaining nuclear fuel cycle capabilities up to three months short of a bomb. Japan and Germany, which are parties to the NPT, are considered to have nuclear fuel cycle capabilities, and it is estimated that if they so desired, they could attain nuclear weapons within three months. In a visit to Berlin on February 17, Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi proposed the Japanese/German model as the basis for Iran-EU negotiations. In a meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Kharrazi elaborated on Iran's perspective how to resolve the dispute with the EU3: "Peaceful nuclear plants in Germany and Japan can serve as a good model for Iran's nuclear projects, and serve as the basis for any round of talks in that respect." [21]

Appendix A: Interview with Ali Agha-Mohammadi

'In Talks with Europe, We Are Conquering Position after Position; Our Ultimate Goal Is to Preserve Our Nuclear Fuel Cycle'

In his December 2004 interview with Jaam-e Jam, Iran's Supreme National Security Council Information Committee Director Ali Agha-Mohammadi elaborated on Iran's nuclear positions and intentions as reflected in the recent talks on Iran's nuclear program. It is interesting to note that in publishing the interview, Jaam-e Jam printed the following quote by Agha-Mohammadi as a large headline: "In the talks with Europe, we are conquering position after position. The ultimate goal is to preserve [our nuclear] fuel cycle, and we have a long way to go until we achieve it." Excerpts from the interview follow: [22]

Jaam-e Jam: "Since the publication of the IAEA Board of Governors' November resolution, we have been witness to two different interpretations of this resolution: the interpretation of [IAEA Director-General] Muhammad El-Baradei, and [the interpretation] of [Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary] Hassan Rowhani [who is also responsible for Iran's nuclear affairs]... Is the difference in Rowhani's interpretation [relative to that of El-Baradei] connected to the content of the talks [with the EU3]?"

Agha-Mohammadi: "... [Rowhani] said that the duration of the talks [with Europe on the long-term agreement] would be short. [The principle of Iran's right to the] nuclear fuel [cycle] must be preserved, and official [international] recognition of Iran's right must be ensured. All these matters were noted in a letter sent by Iran to the IAEA.

"... In the West's extensive propaganda literature, there was a concept of stopping [Iran's uranium] enrichment. Today, this process is undergoing change, that is, this expression is about to be eradicated from this literature. Even the Europeans have declared in their statements that Iran's suspension is a voluntary matter, and not legally binding.

"... In all things regarding the media, we must attack the other side, not ourselves. This is a mistake..."

Jaam-e Jam: "Didn't we have an agreement with the Europeans that after the talks you would go and tell public opinion this-and-that?"

Agha-Mohammadi: "No. There is no such thing in the world of our time, which is a world of the media. If something with any weak point is said, they will use it against us everywhere... We are not standing against only the Europeans. Also, America and the neighboring countries are standing against us... The nuclear dossier [which was at risk of being handed over to the U.N. Security Council] included genuine harm to our sovereignty. Now, we are conquering the positions of the enemy one after another, and pushing him back.

"Did we rejoice when they sealed our nuclear centers? Not at all. At the same time, we negotiated with them [in] such [a way] that the upshot – that is, the sealing of the nuclear centers – does not legally bind us..."

Jaam-e Jam: "... Why did we sign an agreement [with the EU3], and with what guarantees did we arrive at agreement with them?

Agha-Mohammadi: "... Wherever it appears that there is no possibility of advancing matters, we will stop the negotiations. [Success] is not guaranteed in the path of nuclear negotiations with Europe. When it appears that the path is not leading to results, it will be natural for us not to persist in continuing on it. We must fight to preserve Iran's scientific achievements...

"[Not all] the Europeans are alike. But in [their] fundamental strategies they are no different."

Jaam-e Jam: "What would be your reaction if you sense – even a little – that the Europeans are stalling [in the negotiations]?"

Agha-Mohammadi: "We do not act on feelings. When we reach the conclusion that the Europeans are stalling, we will stop the negotiations.

"... Our problems with America never pass through Europe. The Americans themselves have continuously expressed their desire to negotiate with Iran. Currently, these expressions of desire have increased...

"Europe's honor hangs upon the negotiations' success. If the talks fail, the path of negotiations with America will also be closed... Our goal is to preserve the scientific achievements of the Iranian scientists – that is, nuclear fuel cycle technology."

Appendix B: Interview with Sirus Nasseri
'The Breakdown of These Talks Must Be the Europeans' Concern, Not Ours'; 'Europe Has Far More to Lose than We Do'

In December 2004, the Tehran-based daily Hamshahri held an interview with Iranian diplomat Sirus Nasseri, who is a member of Iran's team of negotiators in the EU-Iran nuclear talks and heads the work group on nuclear matters in the current negotiations with France. Nasseri discussed Iran's nuclear issues and the November 2004 Paris Agreement's ramifications for Iran. Following are excerpts: [23]

Hamshahri: "You claim that a period of three months was set for reaching a preliminary result [in the Iran-E.U. talks]. After these three months, there are two possibilities: One is that we will be nearing a final agreement, and the other is that the work groups' negotiations and steps will end with no results. What will you do in such a case?

Nasseri:"[...] The basis of the Paris Agreement was that Iran will suspend to some extent its [uranium] enrichment activity, and that they [the Europeans] will change the status of [Iran's] dossier in the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] to non-urgent. If we see after this period that the talks are not leading to any result, the basis of the agreement will be violated..."

Hamshahri:"The negotiations cannot be abandoned as easily as you are describing. As the negotiations progress, an atmosphere will be created that will be very difficult to get out of. By giving them [the E.U.] time, aren't we preventing the option of us leaving the negotiations?"

Nasseri: "I think that this matter should be of more concern to the Europeans, because, in my view, time is on our side... If we reach an agreement, I don't think it will be hard to resolve the remaining issues, unless there are difficulties unconnected to us. We can lead the IAEA to a situation in which it announces that no violations are being committed in Iran. Although it will be difficult to do this, our planning is in this direction. When we reach this situation, it will be hard for them to again raise the threat [of transferring Iran's nuclear dossier] to the [U.N.] Security Council. Thus, the breakdown of these talks must be the Europeans' main concern, not ours..."

Hamshahri:"They [the Europeans] emphasize that they insist that a suspension [of uranium enrichment] will be permanent. This matter will be resisted by you, and Iran will not accept it. After three months, won't it be more difficult to leave the negotiations?"

Nasseri: "[...] It is important to note that they [the Europeans] were the ones who proposed the negotiations. Obviously we want to launch the negotiations with Europe in good faith, and to reach long-term understandings [with them]. There is no point in this cat-and-mouse game, but in any event, it is also possible to stop the suspension... "

Hamshahri: "The negotiating team and Mr. Rowhani [secretary of Iran's National Security Council and the official in charge of Iran's nuclear dealings with Europe] always emphasize that the suspension is in the framework of a political agreement, and that it is not legally binding. Nevertheless, it seems that because of this commitment, the ball is moving into our court and America and the other countries can easily, after a while, raise the psychological claim that Iran has renewed [uranium] enrichment. Is removing this psychological burden work that is difficult to impossible?"

Nasseri: "[...] In principle, this nuclear dispute is not between us and Europe, but between us and America. As things stand, the Europeans are acting as a barrier.

"Even England is not interested in having the Iranian dossier transferred to the Security Council, because it sees the Security Council as a prelude to a measure whose ramifications cannot be predicted, and will include the entire region. For this reason, they are asking us to be patient, and not act hastily. They also are asking America not to take an extreme stand. The Europeans know very well that the ball is not in our court. On the contrary – it is in their court...

"If the negotiations fail, they will not be so hasty to claim that they have the capability of solving sensitive issues in the international arena. Their role will be limited to issues of secondary importance, or even less [importance], and they will not be able to intervene in the political and important issues in the world. This matter also applies to each of the [European] countries individually:

"Germany has much to lose, so it is more sensitive than them all. France is in a similar position. With regard to its political activity, it wants to arrive at a position that will enable it to deepen its ties with us. They have emphasized numerous times that they want to arrive at a strategic connection with us. If these talks break down, not only will they achieve nothing, but they will only lose. England too is concerned about its status in the region.

"Thus, it is not because of us that the Europeans are interested in solving this problem, but for the sake of their own status. They want this matter to be resolved, and at the same time they know well that we are sensitive regarding issues of this kind. If they want to play around with the talks, this time they won't reach any result."

Hamshahri: "One criticism of the Paris Agreement is that there is no balance between the concessions we gave the Europeans and what they gave us. Our commitments are very precise and clear, while the European commitments are general and not guaranteed. A public debate has emerged about there being no balance here."

Nasseri: "Our main commitment is the matter of the suspension. It means that we are not engaging in this activity for a while. Now we must see how much this non-activity [will harm] the capability that we have created. But in exchange for this, we have neutralized a broad psychological war [against us]. Domestically, the Iranian nation has noted that we [the diplomats] have taken the most logical of paths, and if we reach difficult stages it will be obvious that there is a need to obtain a national consensus."

Hamshahri: "You frequently stress that the suspension is for three months, but the Europeans stress that the suspension is permanent. When will these disagreements be cleared up? Even [IAEA Secretary Mohamed] ElBaradei said that the suspension must be permanent."

Nasseri: "America wanted the suspension to be permanent, but this matter was not proposed by the Europeans and the IAEA, and had it arisen it would have come up against our decisive position..."

*A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI's Iranian Media Project.


[1] See MEMRI, Inquiry & Analysis No. 200, December 21, 2004, 'The Iran-E.U. Agreement on Iran's Nuclear Activity,' The Iran-E.U. Agreement on Iran's Nuclear Activity.

See MEMRI, Inquiry & Analysis No. 191, October 21, 2004, 'Iran Rejects the European Offer to Supply it With Nuclear Fuel,' Iran Rejects the European Offer to Supply it With Nuclear Fuel.

See MEMRI, Inquiry & Analysis No. 189, September 21, 2004, 'Iran's Nuclear Policy Crisis,' Iran's Nuclear Policy Crisis.

[2] Iran has indicated that the deadline could be further extended. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi announced that at the end of the three-month period for negotiations agreed upon in the Paris Agreement the Iranians would evaluate "how the negotiations have gone." IRNA (Iran), February 16, 2005. He maintained, however, that the Iranian government has not set a specific time limit for its current nuclear negotiations with the Europeans, but that Tehran insists on its legitimate right to enrich uranium. He further said he did not expect a "definite result" by March 15 and that Iran would continue to negotiate "if it has the feeling that the talks have been positive." IRNA (Iran), February 17, 2005.

[3] De Morgen (Belgium), February 21, 2005.

[4] For more details on the European proposal, see MEMRI, Inquiry & Analysis No. 191, October 21, 2004, 'Iran Rejects the European Offer to Supply it With Nuclear Fuel,' Iran Rejects the European Offer to Supply it With Nuclear Fuel.

[5] IRNA (Iran), February 17, 2005.

[6] IRNA (Iran), February 13, 2005.

[7] Jaam-e Jam (Iran), December 28, 2004.

[8] IRNA (Iran), February 21, 2005. In an interview with the Tehran reformist daily Hamshahri, Sirus Nasseri, the head of technical and nuclear committee of Iran's team of negotiators with the EU3, said: "Europe has far more to lose from the breakdown of the talks than we do." Hamshahri, Iran, December 13, 2004.

[9] For a previous analysis of the Paris Agreement and the Iran-EU3 negotiations, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 200, December 21, 2004, 'The Iran-E.U. Agreement on Iran's Nuclear Activity,' The Iran-E.U. Agreement on Iran's Nuclear Activity.

[10] For more details on the European proposal, see MEMRI, Inquiry & Analysis No. 191, October 21, 2004, 'Iran Rejects the European Offer to Supply it With Nuclear Fuel,' Iran Rejects the European Offer to Supply it With Nuclear Fuel.

[11] De Morgen (Belgium), February 21, 2005.

[12] Eid Ghadir is the day the Prophet Mohammad announced, during his last pilgrimage to Mecca, that Imam Ali
would be his successor.

[13] Jomhouri-ye Eslami and Aftab-e Yazd (Iran), January 30, 2005. The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council's foreign policy committee, Hossein Mousavian, confirmed that: "We have not yet seen considerable progress in our cooperation and no incentives in political, security, technological, economic and nuclear fields." He warned of "a crisis of trust with Europe" if the EU was coordinating policy with the U.S. and intentionally dragging out the negotiations. IRNA (Iran), February 3, 2005; Kayhan, Iran, February 5, 2005.

Mousavian also stated recently that: "If we see tangible, objective progress, we will continue negotiations. If we think the Europeans are killing time, we will definitely revise (our position)." Aftab-e Yazd, Iran, February 9, 2005.

In a meeting with German FM Fischer, Iranian FM Kharrazi said: "Iran hopes … the Europeans, too, would display more serious determination in achieving tangible results from them." IRNA (Iran), February 17, 2005.

[14] Aftab-e Yazd (Iran), January 13, 2005.

Many Persian dailies quoted Rowhani as saying in a Reuters interview that Iran would accelerate its nuclear program if the U.S. attacked its nuclear facilities. "Imagine that some centrifuges are destroyed because of the attack, then in a short period of time we will build them again...," he said. "If such an attack takes place, of course we will retaliate and we will definitely accelerate our activities to complete our fuel cycle and make nuclear fuel. But I personally do not think the U.S. will take such a risk." In response to a question whether the Europeans or Americans could offer any incentive for Iran to give up its nuclear activities, Rowhani said: "Uranium enrichment is Iran's right" e.g. Tehran Times, Aftab-e Yazd (Iran), and Kayhan (Iran), Iran, February 7, 2005.

Iran Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Director Gholamreza Aqazadeh said that Iran's voluntary suspension of uranium-enrichment activities "is having an effect on the country's nuclear industry, but added that the IAEO is trying to compensate for this by focusing on work in unaffected areas of Iran's nuclear program" Tehran Times, Iran, February 1, 2005.

[15] IRNA (Iran), February 16, 2005. Iran's Atomic Energy Organization's Deputy Head for International Affairs and Planning, Mohammad Sa'idi, recently said: "As repeatedly announced by the country's authorities, including the president, Iran's planning is such that it will conclude [construction] of its atomic plants and meet part of their fuel supply within the country." Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), February 14, 2005.

[16] Jaam-e Jam (Iran), December 28, 2004.

[17] Sharq (Iran), February 14, 2005; IRNA (Iran), February 13, 2005. Heavy-water reactors are generally used for military purposes, whereas light-water reactors are generally used in civilian nuclear industries.

[18] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), February 14, 2005. See, most recently, Kayhan (Iran), February 17, 2005.

[19] IRNA (Iran), February 21, 2005.

[20] IRNA (Iran), February 13, 2005. Iran's declared rationale for its rejection of the five-year moratorium initiative, as well as of the European demand, is economic. On February 3, 2005, Tehran Times quoted Iranian negotiator Sirus Nasseri as saying in a telephone interview with Reuters that El-Baradei's recent proposal for a five-year moratorium would be tantamount to handing the world's few existing nuclear fuel suppliers a monopoly. "With diminishing exports of oil, Iran has to be a supplier. Iran is used to being a net supplier of energy rather than a sole receiver… We are definitely going to be a player," he added.

[21] IRNA (Iran), February 17, 2005.

[22] Jaam-e Jam (Iran), December 28, 2004.

[23] Hamshahri (Iran), December 13, 2004.