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The smoking gun: The West says it’s not falling for Iran’s charms

The smoking gun: The West says it’s not falling for Iran’s charms

The East-West nuclear row continues. As long as the West keeps pointing at Iran’s military-linked atom work, Iran will continue denying these accusations. Where’s the smoking gun, asks Fredrik Dahl.

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September 15, 2011 3:03 by



Western powers said on Wednesday an Iranian “charm offensive” had failed to dispel mounting fears Iran may be working to develop a nuclear bomb, but Washington’s envoy did not rule out engaging with Tehran after it offered fresh talks.

Glyn Davies, US ambassador to the UN atomic watchdog, said a letter from Iran’s nuclear negotiator to the European Union’s foreign policy chief did not contain any new commitments by Tehran to address international concerns about its aims.

“We note Iran’s recent claim that it is starting a new era of cooperation,” Davies said. “We have heard this claim before, but it has yet to be fulfilled.”

But he also said the six major powers involved in efforts to resolve the nuclear dispute were still considering how “best to react” to the latest letter from Tehran, leaving the door open to the prospect of a new diplomatic initiative.

In the letter, Iran’s negotiator Saeed Jalili told the EU’s Catherine Ashton that Tehran was ready to restart talks, but he also stuck to language emphasising Iran’s nuclear “rights” seen in the West as a sign that Tehran is not changing positions that doomed talks in the past.

Ashton has been handling contacts with Iran on behalf of six powers, which include the US, Britain, France and Germany as well as non-Western states Russia and China. She led talks with Iran on the powers’ behalf in December and January, but Western states have since refused Tehran’s offers to resume.

Iran has insisted that the countries recognise its right to enrich uranium, which it says it wants to fuel power plants. The Western states say enriched uranium could be used to make a bomb, and the demand is an unacceptable precondition for talks.

ALL ACCESS PASS FOR THE IAEA

Davies said the powers were still formulating a response to Jalili’s latest letter.

“I don’t want to get out ahead of the diplomatic discussions…to decide on next steps — whether, when and how to engage with the Iranians based on that letter,” Davies said on the sidelines of a board meeting of the UN atomic watchdog.

Since negotiations between the powers and Iran floundered in January, Russia has advocated a phased plan in which Tehran would address concerns that it may be seeking nuclear weapons, and be rewarded with an easing of sanctions.

Faced with tightening sanctions pressure, Iran has launched an effort in the last few months to demonstrate increased openness and cooperation with the UN. International Atomic Energy Agency about its nuclear programme.

In August, it allowed a senior IAEA inspector access to two nuclear-related sites that the Vienna-based UN agency had not had access to for several years, saying this showed Tehran’s “100 percent transparency and openness.”

Last week, Jalili sent his letter to Ashton, in which he talked about the “necessity of achieving a comprehensive, long-term and negotiated solution for both sides”.

But he made clear Iran would not back down on its nuclear “rights”, a phrase that Iran has usually used in the past to refer to its insistence it be permitted to enrich uranium.

Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Iran’s stated readiness to cooperate with the IAEA marked a “turning point” and created an opportunity that should be seized by all.

“NO SMOKING GUN”

Statements by Britain, Germany, France and the US at the meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board made clear they were not impressed with Iran’s openness push.

“Stonewalling the IAEA, flouting UN Security Council obligations and mounting this most recent charm offensive do not reflect a good faith effort to resolve…concerns,” Davies said.

Like the US, Britain, France and Germany voiced particular alarm at Iran’s decision to move higher-grade uranium enrichment to an underground bunker — heightening suspicions.

“The absence of a plausible economic or commercial rationale for so many of the nuclear activities now being carried out in Iran, and the growing body of evidence of a military dimension to these activities, give grounds for grave concern about Iran’s intentions,” British Ambassador Simon Smith told the board.

Iran denies Western accusations its programme is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability.

“The most robust inspection in the history of the IAEA has not found…

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