July 22, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 940

Senior Iranian Official: Europe Will Recognize Iran's Right to a Limited Nuclear Fuel Cycle; Iran to Start Operations at Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility

July 22, 2005
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 940

The European Union, which is negotiating a long-term nuclear agreement with Iran through the EU-3 (United Kingdom, Germany, and France), was scheduled to submit a detailed program for Iranian and European guarantees by the end of July 2005. It has recently been reported that Iran has agreed to grant the E.U. an extension of several more weeks.

In a series of interviews on July 18, Hossein Mousavian, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and a member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, told IRNA how he viewed the unfolding of the Iranian-E.U-3 nuclear negotiations in coming months: "The E.U. is waiting for the formation of the new government in Iran in order to proceed with negotiations on its nuclear program."

The following are excerpts from the interview: [1]

"If the E.U. Does Not Accept the Iranian Enrichment Program, We Will Nevertheless Start [Operating] the [Uranium] Conversion Facility at Isfahan (UCF)."

"[Regarding the nuclear fuel cycle,] the EU may call for continued suspension [of uranium enrichment] in line with the Paris Agreement, in order [to enable the EU-3] to make a decision regarding a final deal for [nuclear] fuel production after they become acquainted with the new government and its policy on global issues. [2] They will reach a decision after several months of negotiations with representatives of the new government.

"Of course, Iran has made it clear that continued suspension of uranium enrichment [activities] for a year or two is not possible. If the E.U. does not accept the Iranian enrichment program, we will nevertheless start [operating] the [uranium] conversion facility at Isfahan (UCF). Under the present circumstances, it will be difficult both for Iran and for the E.U. to derail the present process."

When asked about his recommendations regarding the negotiations and whether he wanted them to continue, Mousavian explained: "My understanding is that proceeding with the negotiations will serve Iranian interests. Both Iran and the E.U. have benefited from the negotiations over the past two years. If the talks had not taken place, there would have been a crisis with Iran's nuclear portfolio in the IAEA Board of Governors, and the major oil and gas contracts that Iran signed with the world would not have been possible. The negotiations with the E.U. have generated an atmosphere enabling Iran to sign long-term gas export contracts with India, China, Pakistan, and the UAE. These contracts are considered to be among the world's greatest economic contracts.

Mousavian: "If Europe Offers to Support the Iranian Nuclear Power Plants and to Guarantee their [Nuclear] Fuel Supply, Iran Should Welcome Such a Proposal"

"The Iranian-European negotiations have proven Iran's strategic status as a supplier of energy to the world, and are of tremendous importance to Iran's national security. I believe that under the present circumstances, both Iran and Europe have made great achievements, and that they should not miss such an opportunity. On the other hand, Iran would do well to welcome the European proposals for economic, political, security, and nuclear cooperation, and to continue negotiations in order to substantiate its [own nuclear] demands. For example, if Europe offers to support the Iranian nuclear power plants and to guarantee their [nuclear] fuel supply, Iran should welcome such a proposal and proceed with the practical implementation of the agreement to set up 20 nuclear power plants [in Iran].

"If the E.U. insists upon suspension of uranium enrichment in accordance with the Paris Agreement, Iran will reject this [demand], but at the same time will continue negotiations because, after all, we have come closer to a solution. The E.U. may call for several months to reach an understanding with the new government and the new Iran-E.U. negotiating team regarding a [nuclear] fuel cycle settlement.

"Iran Will Begin [Operating] the Isfahan [Uranium Conversion] Facility [UCF]"

"Iran will begin [operating] the Isfahan [uranium conversion] facility [UCF], which is not related to enrichment and is solely a facility for uranium conversion." [3]

When asked about the belief in Iran that the E.U. would not accept Iranian uranium enrichment even after 100 years of talks, Mousavian added: "In the past two years, during which I have participated in the Iran-E.U. negotiations, it has been clear to me that E.U. acceptance of [our right to uranium] enrichment would necessitate a framework that would allay both parties' concerns. The framework has been established during the past two years of negotiations, and includes bilateral, regional and international issues.

"At the present stage, the E.U. will agree to tangible progress in bilateral relations and in nuclear cooperation [that will include] setting up power plants and nuclear energy applications in the fields of chemistry, medicine, and agriculture.

"As for Uranium Enrichment, I Know That it is Most Probable that the E.U. Will Recognize Iran's Right to a [Nuclear] Fuel Cycle -Of, Course on a More Limited Scale than What Iran Expects"

"As for uranium enrichment, I know that it is most probable that the E.U. will recognize Iran's right to a [nuclear] fuel cycle, of course on a more limited scale than what Iran expects. The E.U. will do so through a step-by-step approach, [in order to receive] objective guarantees. This will be possible [only] after several months of negotiations. They want to be sure that Iran's foreign policy on regional and international issues will remain the same, and will not diverge from the path [it has taken] in recent years. They can reach [this] point [only] after several rounds of intensive talks with representatives of the new government."

Mousavian contined by stating: "If those who criticize [Iran's cooperation and negotiations with the EU] believe that we should have begun negotiations with America, since America is the one that can provide the privileges relevant to us, they should have known that negotiations with America constitute the regime's 'red line' [that cannot be crossed under any circumstances]... The single political bloc which is most beneficial for cooperation in this field was Europe... The international consensus to transfer the Iranian [nuclear] portfolio to the U.N. Security Council has disintegrated. When this crisis erupted, it was an immediate, serious threat [to Iran], but as of now this threat has been removed. Nevertheless, in the event of an [Iranian] violation of the [IAEA] Board of Governors' resolution, it is possible [that the Iranian portfolio] will be referred to the U.N. Security Council."

In response to a question whether Iranian National Security Council Secretary Dr. Hassan Rowhani, who is in charge of Iranian nuclear issues, would remain in his post, Mousavian said that Rowhani was appointed by outgoing Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and that President-Elect Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, who would form the new government, should have a free hand in assembling the negotiating team with the EU.

[1] IRNA (Iran), July 17, 2005; Aftab-e Yazd (Iran), July 18, 2005; Jomhouri-e Eslami (Iran), July 18, 2005.

[2] For details on the Paris Agreement see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 200, "The Iran-E.U. Agreement on Iran's Nuclear Activity," The Iran-E.U. Agreement on Iran's Nuclear Activity, December 21, 2004.

[3] Uranium conversion is a preliminary stage prior to the enrichment of uranium.

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