TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran would consider stopping uranium enrichment if it gets cast-iron guarantees of regular international fuel supplies for its nuclear power plants, a senior Iranian official said on Thursday.
For that to happen, UN inspectors would have to verify Iran’s disputed nuclear program is wholly peaceful and a myriad of international sanctions against Tehran be lifted.
Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh said the reason why Iran was enriching uranium was the lack of an legally binding international accord on security of fuel supply.
“We are going to continue as long as there is no legally binding internationally recognized instrument for assurance of supply,” Soltanieh told reporters after addressing a think-tank conference in Brussels.
Asked if with such a deal Iran would shelve enrichment, Soltanieh said Iran is forced to develop its own enrichment facilities to ensure security of supply for its power plants because it fears international suppliers would face pressure from the Untied States or others to cut deliveries.
“We have to have a contingency (safeguard) in case of interruption,” he said.
That might change if all 145 members of the UN’s atomic energy agency concluded a legally binding agreement to guarantee a constant supply of fuel, Soltanieh said.
“This is not an overnight situation that there is a paper today, and tomorrow then they say Iran will stop. No, it’s not possible. There is no way.”
He said that arrangement would be a first step but it would have to be implemented.
“This is a first step …, then the next step is to see it really implemented,” the envoy said.
If this were carried out, “then Iran would be able to reconsider the position that we have now. The situation would be different, we would have to see”, Soltanieh said.
“Plus every country has to be cautious to have as a contingency plan a fuel reserve in case of interruption.”
He also said the West was trying to humiliate Iran by seeking to prevent it doing nuclear research and development. “When you use language of threat, it won’t work.”
The suggestion that an international supply agreement might end the nuclear stand off was welcomed by Hans Blix, the former head of the nuclear agency and chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq. He said it could be the basis for international negotiations.
“This is the direction in which one should look for the future,” Blix told the conference on Iran’s nuclear program organized by the European Policy Center.
Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.
Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.
Tehran has dismissed West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.
Iran insists that it should continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.
Iran currently suffers from an electricity shortage that has forced the country into adopting a rationing program by scheduling power outages – of up to two hours a day – across both urban and rural areas.
Iran plans to construct additional nuclear power plants to provide for the electricity needs of its growing population.
The Islamic Republic says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.
Political observers believe that the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran mainly over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.
Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicts a recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.
The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.
Meantime, The UN nuclear watchdog has also carried out at least 14 surprise inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites so far, but found nothing to support West’s allegations.
Also in his latest report to the 35-nation Board of Governors, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed “the non-diversion” of nuclear material in Iran and added that the agency had found no “components of a nuclear weapon” or “related nuclear physics studies” in the country.
The IAEA report confirmed that Iran has managed to enrich uranium-235 to a level ‘less than 5 percent.’ Such a rate is consistent with the construction of a nuclear power plant. Nuclear arms production, meanwhile, requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.
The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog continues snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and has reported that all “declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”
Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.
Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns – the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US – to the latest round of Iran-West talks happened after Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.