VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Iran”s new top nuclear negotiator was scheduled to meet Friday with the head of the U.N. atomic monitoring agency for discussions focusing on his country”s decision to resume uranium conversion despite international pressure not to do so.
The official, hard-liner Ali Larijani, also was expected to discuss a report being prepared by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Diplomats say that report, being prepared for the September 19 meeting of the IAEA”s board of governors, will disclose new details on Tehran”s experiments with small amounts of plutonium, a key component of nuclear weapons.
On Thursday, Larijani called for more countries to join three European nations in talks about its nuclear program, apparently hoping to bring in more sympathetic negotiators. The surprise call was part of Tehran”s drive to win approval for what it says will be peaceful use of nuclear power.
The talks involving France, Germany and Britain suffered a blow earlier this month when Iran rejected the Europeans” central proposal, an offer of economic incentives in return for permanently giving up uranium development.
Tehran also resumed uranium conversion at its plant in the central city of Isfahan.
The United States, which accuses Iran of seeking to develop atomic weapons, dismissed new the proposal as a "typical tactic of the Iranian government designed to change the subject." In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the current format, involving the three EU nations, was the correct one and that Iran ought "to take the deal that is on the table." Europe also responded coolly to Larijani”s call.
Britain”s Foreign Office said there was "no basis for negotiation with Iran until they respond" to an IAEA resolution adopted earlier this month that calls on Iran to suspend reprocessing activities at Isfahan. The EU countries called off a negotiating session scheduled for August 31 because of the resumption of work there.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said France, Britain and Germany were not really alone in the talks with Tehran since they were acting on behalf of the 25-nation EU.
Tehran says its program is only aimed at producing electricity and insists it has the right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to build a uranium development program.
Uranium is enriched by turning the raw ore into gas, which is then spun in centrifuges. If it is enriched to a low level, it can be used as fuel for a reactor; at a high level, it can be used for a bomb.
Bringing other nations into the negotiations would likely weaken what has been an unusually unified front by Europe and the United States, pressuring Iran to accept limits.
Friday”s expected meeting between Larijani and the IAEA”s ElBaradei appeared to have been decided very recently.
ElBaradei had been due to attend a meeting in Copenhagen Thursday but organizers there said he canceled on short notice.
Others on the IAEA board with their own nuclear programs are be sympathetic to Iran”s arguments that it has every right to uranium development. Brazil and Argentina appear hesitant to subject Iran to restrictions on its nuclear program, worrying that they could face the same pressure one day.
China, which views Iran as a key supplier of oil, and Russia, whose economic interests in the country include development of the Bushehr nuclear reactor, have in the past opposed U.S. calls to haul Tehran before the U.N. Security Council for defying the IAEA board.
Iran also previously has courted support for its nuclear program from Arab countries including Yemen, which is both a member of the IAEA board and the Nonaligned Movement.
Iran”s new ultraconservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said this week his government would draw up new proposals for negotiations. Iranian officials have made clear they expect the talks to focus on allowing Tehran to proceed with its program while setting up guarantees to ensure it is not developing weapons.