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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Nucléaire iranien: derniere chance pour la diplomatie?

by By Françoise Germain Robin

Iran’s Nuclear Program: the Last Chance for Diplomacy?

Translated by John O’Neil

Translated Tuesday 7 March 2006, by John O’Neil

Iran’s Nuclear Program: the last chance for diplomacy?
Iran and the EU-3 (Germany, France, and Great Britain) had a final meeting Friday before Monday’s IAEA meeting, which will decide whether or not to send the Iranian dossier to the UN Security Council.

In the preliminary report made public on February 27th, IAEA director, Mohamed El Baradei, wrote of the inability to guarantee that the Iranian nuclear program has entirely peaceful aims, without having proof that a military program exists.

Provocations on both sides

The United States and Israel have accused Iran of working toward arming itself with nuclear weapons and last August pushed Europe to change its long held conciliatory attitude to obtain a uranium enrichment moratorium . In the meantime, Iran has changed presidents - from the pragmatic Khatami to Ahmadinejad a dogmatic fundamentalist and former leader of the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) who has recently stepped up his anti-Israel rhetoric. Israel in turn has threatened to send its air force to put an end to the Iranian nuclear program and is preparing the public for this eventuality.

Confident because of its favorable position in the region - notably with major US policy failures in Iraq and George W. Bush’s Middle Eastern gamble - Iran is demanding immediate recognition of its right to control its nuclear technology. Visiting Tokyo on Tuesday, Iranian foreign affairs minister, Manuchehr Mottaki, used Japan as an example, “We, like you, want to have the right to a peaceful nuclear program we need to develop our economy." Last week, he explained to EU officials in Brussels that Iran was ready to accept the possibility of pursuing uranium enrichment outside of Iran while resolving issues with the IAEA.

That was the goal of the Russian proposal: IAEA control of Iranian uranium enrichment that would take place in Russia. For the past few days Ali Larijani and other Iranian nuclear program officials led intense negotiations in Moscow. They have permitted the announcement of an agreement in principle, but not a final agreement.

Nevertheless, it seems that a deal is possible. The International Crisis Group (ICG), based in Brussels, released its recommendations on February 23rd. The ICG considers insisting on an actual freeze dangerous and recommends that the West recognize Iran’s right to manage its nuclear technology but under strict IAEA control. Instead of the threat of sanctions, the report proposes instead to lead Iran to a compromise by way of promising technological cooperation, progressive lifting of the US embargo and recognizing Iran’s regional role. In return, Iran would accept a two to three year moratorium and a progressive return to uranium enrichment activities under international control.

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty

Some conclusions agree with proposals that Iran itself made to the Europeans, as expressed by Ali Moujani, Iranian chargé d’ affaires in Paris, namely "uranium enrichment in Iran, but with open doors, within the framework of a multinational consortium in which technicians and specialists from any country except Israel could participate, under control of the IAEA and within the framework of the non-proliferation treaty to which we remain a party ".

Solutions exist for this impasse, if the Iranian president stops trying to provoke the West and the United States and Israel stop brandishing the threat of military strikes which would have incalculable consequences for both the region and the world.

Friday’s negotiations between Iran and the EU-3 fell apart though both sides are interested in continuing their dialogue. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency the chief Iranian negotiator has stated that if its nuclear dossier is reported to the UN Security Council, Iran will resume uranium enrichment.

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