No progress at EU-Iran nuclear talks

Closed-door talks between EU and Iranian
officials on Tehran’s nuclear programme broke up in Vienna
on 27 October without apparent agreement. The
two sides did reportedly agree to hold further meetings on
the issue.

At stake at the Vienna meeting was an offer made
jointly by Britain, France and Germany that aims to
provide Tehran valuable civilian nuclear technology in
exchange for the indefinite suspension of uranium
enrichment activities. Iran is facing potential UN
sanctions over what Washington believes is a secret
nuclear weapons programme.

Although Iran had earlier indicated its readiness to
consider the offer, officials in Tehran said on the eve
of the Vienna meeting that the EU-3 proposal was riddled
with ambiguities and must be made more balanced.
Furthermore, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei declared that “suspension of [uranium]
enrichment is an illogical demand”. 

The British Foreign Office issued a more positive
assessment of the Vienna meeting: “Some progress was
made towards identifying the elements of a common
approach to the issues and the two sides agreed to meet
again shortly.”

Iran voluntarily suspended uranium enrichment in
October 2003 to show its readiness to co-operate with the
UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
However, an Iranian official was quoted after the Vienna
meeting as saying that “total suspension [of uranium
enrichment] will not be accepted under any
circumstances”. Furthermore, Iran continues to
insist on its right to employ nuclear power for peaceful
purposes.

Meanwhile, hardline Iranian lawmakers have reportedly
introduced a bill with “double urgency” label
that would force Tehran to resume uranium enrichment and
terminate snap UN inspections of the country’s
nuclear facilities.

The IAEA is scheduled to rule on the level of
Iran’s co-operation on 25 November. Iran has
described the IAEA process
“illegal”. A negative decision could lead
to UN sanctions.

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