EU and Iranian officials have reached agreement over Iran’s plans to manufacture enriched uranium as part of its nuclear power development programme.
Under the terms of the agreement, Iran will suspend all of its uranium enrichment activities as the first step in a longer period of negotiation. The agreement was reached in negotiations among Iran, France, Germany and the UK.
Internationally, the news has had a mixed reception. According to a report in the Financial Times, Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said that the agreement would lead to talks on “fundamental issues” that could begin a “new era of cooperation between Iran and Europe. We have never held serious talks with Europe with such an extensive scope.”
However, Silvan Shalom, Israel’s foreign minister, was critical of the agreement. “Iran is just trying to buy time to allow it to develop weapons of mass destruction.” Richard Boucher, spokesman for the US State Department, said that the US position remained that Iran should be referred to the UN Security Council because of previous violations of their nuclear safeguards commitments.
Rowhani said Iran would begin suspension of uranium enrichment, and that this would include the conversion of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas and the manufacture or assembly of centrifuges, the means of converting the gas into enriched uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that this agreement went well beyond a previous agreement. Mohamed El Baradei, head of the IAEA, said that the agreement was “a step in the right direction.”
Iranian officials published a text of the agreement, which said that the three European governments had accepted Iran’s suspension of work “as a voluntary confidence-building measure to be sustained while negotiations proceed on a mutually acceptable agreement on long-term arrangements.” According to the agreement, as well as beginning talks on political and security issues, technology and cooperation, and nuclear issues, the three European governments would resume negotiations on a trade agreement and support the opening of negotiations on Iranian accession to the World Trade Organisation.
The White House has said that it maintained the right to deal with Iran “unilaterally.” According to a report from the BBC, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: “The implementation and verification of the agreement is critical. Iran has failed to comply with its commitments many times over the past year and a half.”