EU warns Iran over resumption of activities

PARIS (AFP) — The European Union issued a sharp warning to Iran Tuesday, saying it risked unspecified consequences if it makes good on its threat to resume sensitive nuclear activities in breach of a deal currently under negotiation.
“Were Iran to resume currently suspended activities, our negotiations would be brought to an end, and we would have no option but to pursue other courses of action,” the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana wrote in a joint letter made public by French officials in Paris.

The French and US governments earlier Tuesday said that the issue would be taken to the UN Security Council for action if Iran refused to abide by the deal, known as the Paris Agreement, under which Tehran said it would suspend its nuclear programme in exchange for trade benefits from the European Union.

Britain, France and Germany, which spearheaded the negotiations on behalf of the EU, have all expressed alarm at Iran’s move.

“It may trigger a major international crisis,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told reporters after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday chaired by President Jacques Chirac.

The United States fears Iran intends to use its nuclear programme to build the atomic bomb despite Tehran’s insistence that it is pursuing only energy generation.

In the letter, Douste-Blazy, Solana, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said they were “deeply concerned” by Iran’s declaration Monday to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that it planned to imminently resume uranium ore conversion.

“The decision to resume suspended activities at Isfahan would, if carried out, breach both the Paris Agreement and the IAEA Board of Governors’ resolution of 29 November 2004,” they said.

“It would also further heighten international concern about the real objective of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

The letter’s authors said “we are concerned that Iran is now proposing to take a step that would terminate our dialogue” before they could lay out the EU’s trade and cooperation offer by Sunday, as agreed in the talks.

“We can only continue with this process if both sides abide by the obligations they have entered into in the Paris Agreement, and that includes the full and verified suspension by Iran of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities.”

The ministers said their countries were seeking a special session of the IAEA’s board of governors to discuss the matter and that, if Iran failed to comply with its commitments, the unspecified other courses of action would be pursued.

“We therefore call upon Iran not to resume suspended activities or take other unilateral steps, and to confirm without delay its full commitment to the Paris Agreement.”

Prior to the letter’s release, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Iran must comply with the Paris Agreement or face possible sanctions by the UN Security Council.

“Iran must honour the commitments it has made. These commitments are commitments suspending all activity, conversion, treatment and enrichment of uranium,” Villepin told Europe 1 radio.

If Tehran refuses, “the international community will be forced to draw conclusions…. And the Security Council will be called on if Iran refuses to comply.”

Douste-Blazy, in his comments to reporters, said the European Union wanted the special meeting of the IAEA governors “to say and to spell out very strongly and firmly to the Iranians that they have to return to the negotiating table.”

He added: “If the Iranians don’t accept what the board of governors offers them, then the international community should, I believe, go to the Security Council… [and] we’ll then see what sanctions are applied to Iran.”

German Chancellor German Schroeder added his voice to the carrot-and-stick approach being taken on Iran, saying in Berlin that the European Union was ready to offer major economic incentives if Tehran made significant efforts at resolving what he called a “difficult and highly sensitive” situation.

But he warned that Iran would be making a mistake if it doubted the West’s firm resolve to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

In Washington, a spokesman for US President George W. Bush, Scott McClellan, said of Iranian authorities: “If they’re not going to abide by their agreement and obligations, then we would have to look to the Security Council.”

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