Europe: "Our Discussions with Iran Have Reached an Impasse" Middle East
Quarterly Spring 2006

For more than a decade, the European Union has pursued economic engagement
with the Islamic Republic of Iran arguing that trade, rather than
confrontation or sanctions, could best reverse Tehran's terror sponsorship,
human rights abuses, and nuclear ambitions. Between 2000 and 2005, European
trade with Iran almost tripled.

Rather than moderate its behavior, the Iranian government used the influx of
hard currency from both trade and the rise in oil prices to further its
nuclear program. Two and a half years of diplomacy by Great Britain, France,
and Germany ("the EU-3") have little to show in terms of results. On
September 24, 2005, the board of governors of the International Atomic
Energy Agency found Iran to be in "non-compliance" with the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty but declined to refer the Islamic Republic to the
U.N. Security Council.[1]

On January 9, 2006, the Iranian government announced that it would resume
enrichment of uranium, ratcheting up the diplomatic crisis. On January 12,
2006, the EU-3 foreign ministers and European Union high representative
Javier Solana met in Berlin to discuss the Iranian government's decision to
resume uranium enrichment. Their statement, reproduced below, is the most
tacit admission by European officials to date that their engagement with the
Islamic Republic has failed. How European officials will alter their
strategy, though, after referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council remains
unclear.-The Editors.


E3/EU ministers met today to consider the situation following Iran's
resumption on January 9 of enrichment-related activity.

Iran's nuclear activities have been of great concern to the international
community since 2003, when Iran was forced to admit to the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was building a secret installation to
enrich uranium, which could be used to produce material for nuclear weapons.

The IAEA Director General at the time found Iran's policy of concealment had
resulted in many breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of
its Safeguards Agreement.

Under the IAEA's rules, this should have been reported to the Security
Council then.

We launched our diplomatic initiative because we wanted to offer an
opportunity to Iran to address international concerns.

Our objective was to give Iran a means to build international confidence
that its nuclear program was for exclusively peaceful purposes, and to
develop a sound relationship between Europe and Iran.

Given Iran's documented record of concealment and deception, the need for
Iran to build confidence has been and continues to be the heart of the
matter. It was Iran's agreement to suspend all enrichment-related and
reprocessing activities while negotiations were underway that gave us the
confidence to handle the issue within the IAEA framework, rather than refer
it to the Security Council.

We had strong support from the IAEA Board, which repeatedly urged Iran to
suspend these activities and stressed that the maintenance of full
suspension was essential.

Last August, Iran resumed uranium conversion at Isfahan, in breach of IAEA
Board Resolutions and the commitments she had given us in the Paris
Agreement of November 2004.

The IAEA Board reacted by passing a resolution in September formally finding
that Iran was in non-compliance with its Safeguards Agreement, and declaring
that the history of concealment of Iran's program and the nature of its
activities gave rise to questions that were within the competence of the
Security Council.

Since then the IAEA has raised more disturbing questions about Iran's links
with the [rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist] AQ Khan network, which helped
build Libya and North Korea's clandestine military nuclear programmes.

Nonetheless, in response to requests from many of our international partners
and despite the major setbacks through unilateral Iranian actions, we agreed
to delay a report to the Security Council and go the extra mile in search of
a negotiated solution.

We held a round of exploratory talks in Vienna on December 21, 2005, to see
if we could agree on a basis for resuming negotiations. We made crystal
clear that a resumption of negotiations would only be possible if Iran
refrained from any further erosion of the suspension.

Iran's decision to restart enrichment activity is a clear rejection of the
process the E3/EU and Iran have been engaged in for over two years with the
support of the international community.

In addition, it constitutes a further challenge to the authority of the IAEA
and international community. We have, therefore, decided to inform the IAEA
Board of Governors that our discussions with Iran have reached an impasse.

The Europeans have negotiated in good faith. Last August we presented the
most far-reaching proposals for co-operation with Europe in the political,
security, and economic fields that Iran has received since the Revolution.

These reaffirmed Iran's rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and
included European support for a strictly civilian nuclear program in Iran,
as well as proposals that would have given Iran internationally guaranteed
supplies of fuel for its nuclear power program.

But Iran was to refrain from the most sensitive activities until
international confidence was restored. Such a step would not affect Iran's
ability to develop a civil and nuclear power industry.

We proposed that the agreement be reviewed every ten years. The Iranian
government summarily rejected our proposal, and all the benefits that would
have flowed from it, nor have they taken up proposals by others.

The Iranian government now seems intent on turning its back on better
relations with the international community, thereby dismissing the prospect
for expanded economic, technological, and political cooperation with the
international community which would bring tremendous benefits for Iran's
young, talented, and growing population.

This is not a dispute between Iran and Europe, but between Iran and the
whole international community. Nor is it a dispute about Iran's rights under
the NPT. It is about Iran's failure to build the necessary confidence in the
exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

Iran continues to challenge the authority of the IAEA Board by ignoring its
repeated requests and providing only partial co-operation to the IAEA.

It is important for the credibility of the NPT and the international
non-proliferation system generally, as well as the stability of the region,
that the international community responds firmly to this challenge.

We continue to be committed to resolving the issue diplomatically. We shall
be consulting closely with our international partners in the coming days and
weeks. We believe the time has now come for the Security Council to become
involved to reinforce the authority of IAEA Resolutions.


[1] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic
of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency, GOV/2005/77.


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