No Nuclear Accord Reached With Iran
Two days of talks between Iran and three European nations over limiting Tehran’s nuclear activities ended Saturday without agreement, but diplomats said progress had been made.
France’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, “At the end of difficult talks, the two parties made considerable progress toward a provisional agreement on a common approach on these issues.”
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, said that Iran and the Europeans were showing flexibility, although “some very important issues remain to be resolved.”
France, Germany and Britain have offered Iran a package of incentives if it agrees to stop enriching uranium. The material can be used as fuel in nuclear power plants, or, if further processed, in atomic weapons.
Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is strictly for generating electricity, but the scale of its efforts, conducted in secret over 18 years, has left U.S., European and Israeli officials suspicious that Iran is seeking to produce a nuclear weapon.
By negotiating with France, Germany and Britain, Iran is hoping to avoid having the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency refer the issue this month to the U.N. Security Council, which could call for sanctions.
A source close to the talks said that no further meetings were immediately planned and that the delegations would return to their capitals for consultations.
“Nothing is settled.... The discussions were difficult, very difficult,” the source said. “Everyone has to touch base now.”
Rowhani, the Iranian negotiator, denied reports that the Europeans had rejected an Iranian offer to suspend nuclear activities for six months.
“We didn’t announce a specific date,” he said. “We are not prepared to offer any time. The duration of suspension is in our hands. Suspension is voluntary. We won’t give any commitment.”
Tehran suspended uranium enrichment last year but has refused to stop other related activities, such as building centrifuges. It says uranium enrichment is a sovereign right that it will never abandon.
Iran is not breaching its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations by seeking to enrich uranium, but it is being urged to end its enrichment efforts as a confidence-building measure.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency said lawmakers had drafted a bill outlawing the development of nuclear weapons, in a bid to show the world that Tehran’s atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful.