BRUSSELS, 4 May. (IPS) Failing to warm up the European Union to improving trade relations with the Islamic Republic by re-activating stalled talks on Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Kharrazi on Tuesday urged the expanded EU to “take initiative to change US policies in the Middle East and stop US human rights abuses in Iraq”.
The E.U. froze the talks aimed at improving investment conditions for European companies last June after evidence emerged that Iran had brought nuclear weapons and enriched uranium, breaking an international nonproliferation treaty.
“In public, Prodi, Patten and Kharrazi were all smiles, but behind closed doors the E.U. team expressed growing concern about Tehran's faltering commitment to allow international inspectors to make unannounced visits at all its nuclear installations. Kharrazi's explanation of Iran's efforts to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency "disappointed", correspondents quoted un-named E.U. official as having said.
To the surprise and dismay of the international nuclear watchdog, it was discovered that not only the Islamic Republic had not respected its signature, but had continued enriching uranium with more advanced centrifuges.
"We want a clear message," said Emma Udwin, an E.U. spokeswoman.
Mr. Kharrazi said his current tour of Europe and to the EU and other European nations is to discuss with European authorities the upcoming IAEA report on Iran and about the initiative taken by the three EU states, Germany, France and the UK, to work with Tehran on the issue of Iran’s nuclear technology.
He was referring to an agreement signed last October in Tehran between the foreign affairs ministers of Britain, France and Germany and hojjatoleslam Hasan Rohani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme Council on National Security and until recently, the regime’s senior interlocutor to the Veianna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
However, to the surprise and dismay of the international nuclear watchdog, it was discovered that not only the Islamic Republic had not respected its signature, but had continued enriching uranium with more advanced centrifuges.
In its last meeting, the IAEA Board of Directors warned Iran that if it fails to convince the international community about the peaceful nature of its atomic activities, the case would be transferred to the United Nations Security Council for taking hard economic actions.
During the first lap of his European tour, Kharrazi was bluntly warned by France and the European Union to respect engagements it had signed last week with foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany promising to suspend uranium enriching activities and sign the additional Protocols to the Non Proliferation Treaty, promises that Tehran did not carry out, continuing enriching uranium using more advanced technologies.
He scraped Germany from his agenda because of a row over the installation of a plaque in Berlin’s Charlottenbourg district commemorating the murder, in 1992, of four Iranian Kurdish leaders by Lebanese and Iranian gunmen in an operation masterminded by Iranian ruling ayatollahs.
Washington’s “systematic and one sided” support of Israeli policies against the Palestinians were “increasing the hatred of the Americans in both the Muslim and Arab nations”.
“I briefed them about our expectations. I stressed that the project does not belong to Iran only, but is trilateral project, between IAEA, Iran and EU. Success in this project is success of all parties, failure in this project is a failure of all parties and therefore all parties have to work together to come up with a solution
in upcoming board of IAEA governors meeting in June”, Mr. Kharrazi said according to IRNA.
On EU-Iran dialogue, Kharrazi explained that Tehran does not accept “any preconditions on cooperation with Brussels”.
“EU officials say that Iran is a very important country and a major player in the region. If the EU is interested to have Iranian cooperation in different matters, certainly this has to be reciprocal. Iran needs the EU, EU needs Iran”, he went on, adding: “We are ready if the other side is ready to establish solid ties with the EU, comprehensive economic and political cooperation and regional and international cooperation”.
However, EU sources speaking on condition of anonymity said “closer cooperation with Iran is conditional to the betterment of the human rights conditions and, of course, Iran’s clarity on its nuclear projects”.
IAEA Chief Mohammad ElBarade’i visited Tehran three weeks ago and hammered out an agreement for Iran to adhere to a timetable to answer outstanding questions about its nuclear activities, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said.
Tehran’s “cat and mouse” attitude with the IAEA and the recent discovery of more uranium enriching equipments in a military base near Tehran brought the EU’s three Big closer to the positions of the United States and Israel insisting that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, thus seeking a tougher stance against the Islamic Republic, including sanctions imposed by the United Nation’s Security Council.
For its part, Iran says all its nuclear projects are for civilian use and repeats that it has no plan to develop atomic bomb, acclaim that few really believes.
It also accuses Britain, France and Germany of breach of agreement, offering Iran access to advanced nuclear technologies for civilian purposes provided the IAEA cleared the country of running a secret weapons programme.
Accusing the United States of “systematic tortures and ill treatment” on Iraqi prisoners, Mr. Kharazi, in his second round of visit to European capitals said, “I hope the EU which is celebrating the enlargement will take initiative to put pressure on Americans to change their policies towards the Middle East”, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported from Brussels.
“If the EU is advocating to promote human rights, human dignity necessitates everyone to act”, the Iranian Minister stressed, noting that the divulgation of news and despicable pictures of American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners in the notorious Abou Qoreib prison had made the situation in Iraq “more dangerous, unstable and explosive”.
Speaking to reporters at the end of his talks with EU officials, including European Commission President Romano Prodi, EU Foreign and Security Affairs Minister Javier Solana and Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten, Mr. Kharrazi said the torture of the Iraqi prisoners in the one hand and Washington’s “systematic and one sided” support of Israeli policies against the Palestinians were “increasing the hatred of the Americans in both the Muslim and Arab nations”.
Mr. Kharrazi said that Iran plays a “very important role in terms of Iraqi developments” and tried its best to resolve the conflict and help Iraqis overcome their problems like it has been playing a positive role in Afghanistan, but repeated that Iran has not been mediating between the US and Hojjatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, a young and turbulent Iraqi cleric who is fighting American presence in Iraq.
To the Iranian Minister, US move to arrest Mr. Sadr and his followers enflamed the situation. “It was wrong and another mistake committed by the Americans, he argued, adding”. “I believe that the question of Moqtada al-Sadr should be put in the hands of religious authorities in Najaf”.
On the Palestinian issue, Mr. Kharrazi said he told Patten that the Quartet meeting in New York Tuesday is a “waste of time and talks are not going to lead anywhere. There is need for action and the EU, as a key player, must be more aggressively involved in supporting justice”.
“As long as the Americans are supporting Sharon’s policies, meetings like Quartet or other initiatives are not going to lead anywhere”, Kharrazi added, stressing that that “the only way is to fulfil the rights of Palestinians”. ENDS EU IRAN