Pressure on Iran could
backfire By Saloumeh Peyman
TEHRAN - Diplomats might be optimistic about a
breakthrough with Tehran over its nuclear program after
weekend talks between Tehran and three European Union
heavyweights, but realities are more complicated since
many Iranians say their country has a legitimate right
to have full access to nuclear technology.
talks in Paris, between France, Germany and Britain,
were seen by many as the last chance for Iran to reach
an agreement that would avoid it being referred to the
UN Security Council, and avert the risk of sanctions
over its nuclear program.
According to reports,
the Europeans are confident they will be able to
persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program
indefinitely as a way to ensure that it does not use the
technology to produce a nuclear weapon. But Iran has
insisted that the suspension be no longer than six
months and sought assurances that it would not be asked
to permanently revoke its right to have a nuclear energy
European envoys also stressed in Paris
that Tehran must answer by the time the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) takes the issue up on
November 25, and if it fails, Europe will back US calls
to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.
administration of US President George W Bush, which
refuses to talk directly to the Iranian administration,
accuses it of supporting terrorists and developing
weapons of mass destruction. Washington, it seems, is
keen to pursue sanctions and is pressing its allies to
work on a Security Council resolution for that.
On Saturday, China gave Iran crucial backing by
opposing US efforts to have the Islamic republic
referred to the UN. "There is no reason to send the
issue to the Security Council," Chinese Foreign Minister
Li Zhaoxing said at a press conference in Tehran with
his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharazi.
would only make the issue more complicated and difficult
to work out," Li said. The Chinese foreign minister
refused to speculate on whether China would use its veto
in the Security Council in the event of Iran's case
being sent there.
Addressing himself directly to
Bush at Friday prayers, three days after the US
president was re-elected, Iranian Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: "No sir, we are not seeking
to have nuclear weapons. Our nuclear weapon is this
country, and the youth of its people," added Khamenei.
Before the Paris talks, Iranian President
Mohammad Khatami said Iran was ready to reach an
agreement over its nuclear program. He said Tehran was
ready to undertake not to pursue nuclear weapons - as
long as Iran's right to have peaceful nuclear technology
Early last week, IAEA head
Mohammed ElBaradei said Iran should suspend its uranium
enrichment program, and urged it to do so as a
confidence-building measure. But 238 members of the
Islamic Consultancy Assembly (majlis - parliament) are
trying to pass a bill preventing Khatami's government
from suspending the country's uranium enrichment
"European countries are imposing the
suspension of uranium enrichment process and by doing
this they are trying to demolish Iranian creativity in
scientific fields," Hussain Mozaffar, a Tehran hardliner
deputy in parliament, told the Jomhorieslami daily.
"Today, our country is facing a dilemma trying to
safeguard our self-esteem," he added.
carried out by the official Keyhan daily indicated that
78.6% of Iranians polled are against any suspension -
temporary or indefinite - of the country's nuclear
program. They also indicated that Iran must not bow to
pressures from either Europe or the IAEA. More than
1,375 Iranian academics and nuclear scientists have
signed a petition urging Khatami to stand firm in the
negotiations and not compromise on what they call the
"Iranian nation's legitimate right to have full access
to peaceful nuclear technology".
On February 9,
2003, Iran's nuclear program and efforts for building
sophisticated facilities at Natanz and several other
cities, that would eventually produce enriched uranium,
were revealed. China, in 1991, provided Iran with
uranium hexafluoride - a uranium compound that is in a
gaseous state which is used for enriching uranium. In
addition, Iran recently acknowledged that it also
received (again in 1991) from China 1,000 kilograms of
natural uranium hexafluoride, 400 kilograms of uranium
tetrafluoride, and 400 kilograms of uranium dioxide,
without reporting them to the IAEA.
scientists have managed to internalize nuclear
technology in a way that is not irrevocable and the
international community should accept it," said Iran's
Atomic Energy Organization chief, Gholamreza Aghazadeh,
in an interview.
At the same time, Aghazadeh is
flexible in his own view: "We are not saying we are
refusing offers to provide us with nuclear fuel, but we
want also to produce our own nuclear fuel as well as buy
what we lack from outside."
But US pressure on
Iran has already attracted criticism from former White
House officials. In an interview with the London-based
Financial Times, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national
security adviser to former US president Jimmy Carter,
said he feared a second Bush administration would not
hesitate to use force against Iran in order to deal what
it sees as a "nuclear threat".
"Force will only
unify the mullahs with the democratic opposition and
derail political change in Iran," Brzezinski told the
daily. "It may not stop Iran from buying nuclear weapons
and will have adverse consequences in Iraq and