VIENNA,(Reuters) – Iran reiterated its intention to develop a fully-fledged nuclear programme on Wednesday as Europe”s top three powers revived a dialogue with Tehran over suspicions it is secretly trying to make nuclear bombs.
Confrontation rather than compromise has been brewing after declarations from Iran that the Holocaust is a myth and Israel should be wiped out, and a European Union accusation on Tuesday that Tehran has systematically violated human rights at home.
The Islamic republic”s increasingly vocal hostility towards the Jewish state and commitment to developing sensitive technology that could yield ingredients for nuclear weaponry have stoked Western concern about its atomic programme.
Tehran says it aims only to generate more electricity for an energy-hungry economy. But it dodged U.N. nuclear inspectors for 18 years until 2003 and the West says its cooperation since has fallen short of what is needed to regain diplomatic confidence.
Wednesday”s meeting between Iran and Britain, France and Germany in Vienna will be "talks about talks" — exploring whether any basis exists for resuming negotiations on the future of Iran”s nuclear activity, frozen by the "EU3" last August.
"We won”t reopen negotiations, we will only listen to what the Iranians have to say, especially about research and development," said an EU3 diplomat, alluding to centrifuge machines capable of enriching uranium to arms-grade level.
"We will see whether what they say to us in private is any different from what they have been declaring in public, to see if there is wiggle room for resuming negotiations."
A diplomat said the talks had begun mid-morning at the French embassy in Vienna.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the talks should be without preconditions and establish a timetable for Iran to resume uranium enrichment, which it suspended under a 2003 agreement with the EU trio.
"We don”t want talks just for the sake of talks," he told reporters in Tehran.
EU diplomats said the likely outcome would be a decision, taken back in EU capitals, on whether to meet again in January.
Tehran”s unswerving rejection of compromise proposals to have its uranium purified by others abroad, to minimise chances of it grasping the complex technology needed to make bombs, has depressed prospects for a diplomatic solution.
"When we talk about (wanting) nuclear technology it means that enrichment to produce fuel for our reactors should be done inside Iran and it means having the complete nuclear fuel cycle," Mottaki said.
He added that Iran would not again suspend uranium ore processing at its Isfahan plant, the resumption of which in August led to the breakdown of the EU-Iran talks, and intended to restart preliminary work on enrichment technology.
"Isfahan is a done deal," he said. "The research and building parts for (enrichment) centrifuges is not the same as enriching uranium. When the time comes we will announce the resumption of these activities," he added.
Diplomats said recent public statements by Iranian officials gave little cause for optimism.
"The problem is, Iran”s hardliners were encouraged to believe they could inch forward towards enrichment when they managed to restart uranium processing without provoking a referral to the U.N. Security Council," one diplomat said.
U.S.-EU moves to send Iran”s case to the Security Council for possible sanctions have stumbled on resistance by Russia, China and developing nations on the board of the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The IAEA board opted in November to put off any referral to give time for promoting an EU-backed proposal for Russia to enrich Iran”s uranium under a joint venture.
But Tehran has rebuffed the idea and interest in it seems to have waned in Moscow, which has major energy and arms links with Iran, including a $1 billion nuclear reactor under construction and a $1 billion package of missiles and other hardware.
Some analysts believe that if dialogue runs aground again, the way would be cleared to an emergency IAEA board session and vote to put Iran in Security Council hands. But Russia and China could veto sanctions as permanent powers on the Council.