Iran’s objection to ratifying the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol of the IAEA is said to be the main obstacle to dispelling fears that it is not building a nuclear weapon. Iranian and EU officials meet April 10 to try to resolve a stalemate in their negotiations over this issue. If they fail, the EU will likely support the US and refer the case to the UN Security Council.
At the moment, Iran is unwilling to ratify the Additional Protocol because of agreement between the EU and the US on its interpretation; none of the two settle for anything less than that inspectors see Iran destroy a wide arsenal of nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities that it has been building on and off since the Shah was driven out in 1979. It would also have to abandon all its projects to enrichment, reprocess and convert uranium as well as its heavy-water production.
One option that Iran might be willing to buy into -even if only partially- would be to compensate Iran for giving up the right to produce reactor fuel. Under this construction, major nuclear suppliers including Russia, the United States, and certain European countries would provide a binding guarantee for Iran to receive fuel-cycle services-the supply of fresh reactor fuel as well as retrieval and storage of spent fuel-on a commercial basis for any nuclear power reactors that it builds as long as it meets its commitments.
This option is disfavored by the US, which wants Iran to cease all nuclear operations full stop. Earlier negotiations between Europe and Iran stalled. The EU countries conducting them indicated that they might support the U.S. intention to hand the issue over to the UN Security Council. This means that military force is not excluded if Tehran does not accept the demand to make its current nuclear halt permanent.
Observers say that the best hopes to avoid this during the negotiations starting 10 April will be a focus on strengthening rather than discarding the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory. This is very much in line with traditional ‘soft’ EU foreign policy. Some observers fear that the US cooperation with the EU on the issue means that the EU is alienated from its earlier standpoint.
The Additional Protocol allows for intrusive inspections by the IAEA on a no-notice basis. Iran no doubt will argue here that this means reconfirming and beginning implementation of the obligations the NPT imposes on nuclear weapons states such as the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia to move towards full nuclear disarmament.
Angelique van Engelen is a freelance writer. She has lived for over three years in the Middle East. She runs http://www.contentclix.com and also contributes to a weblog http://clixyPlays.blogspot.com. She can be emailed via firstname.lastname@example.org