PARIS, 16 Feb. (IPS) As international pressures increases against the nuclear programmes of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a high-ranking European official for the first time openly said the projects are aimed at developing secretly nuclear weapons.
"No civilian nuclear program can explain the Iranian nuclear program. So it is a clandestine Iranian military nuclear program", French Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told the State-run France 2 television on Wednesday evening.
"The international community has sent a very firm message by saying to the Iranians to come back to reason and logic. But Tehran is not responding.
The accusations came after on 13 February Tehran officially announced that it has resumed enriching uranium works at facilities in Natanz, in south western Iran, a sensitive nuclear site that was visited on Wednesday by the hard line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad.
"The international community has sent a very firm message by saying to the Iranians to come back to reason and logic. Respect your engagements of suspending all nuclear activity and the enrichment of uranium and the conversion of uranium” Mr. Douste Blazy said, adding: "But they are not listening to us".
In fact, during his visit to Natanz, Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, a former Revolutionary Guard officer reiterated to the site’s personnel that “enriching uranium and mastering the full nuclear fuel cycle was an undeniable right of the Iranians, a right that they would never abandon at any cost”.
The resumption of enriching uranium, which, according to international nuclear experts and inspectors, has started at very small level with centrifuges not linked in cascade, has nevertheless met with international concern, prompting a strong criticism by the European Parliament which, on Wednesday, called on Tehran to accept the Russian proposal for enriching uranium in Russia.
To Mr. Douste-Blazy’s credit, Iran has only one nuclear powered electricity plant under construction in the Persian Gulf city of Booshehr with the help of Russia that is also providing the necessary nuclear fuel.
But Tehran says it intends to build at least six other plants with a total capacity of 6.000 megawatts.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in a joint declaration issued at the end of the official visit to Moscow by Mr. de Villepin described the Russian proposal as “one of the best way to solve the Iranian nuclear crisis”.
However, on Tuesday, Mr. Serguei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister conditioned the proposal to “full suspension” by Iran of all its nuclear activities.
Speaking in Vienna ahead of his meeting with counterparts from the European Union, Mr. Lvrov said Moscow will only host Iran’s Bottom of Formuranium enrichment program if Tehran agrees to re-impose an indefinite freeze on enrichment at home.
Top of FoLavrov's comments came just days before 20 February talks in Moscow on moving Iran's enrichment program to Russia to allay fears that Tehran might misuse the technology to make nuclear arms.
However, analysts said Lavrov’s conditioning the talks to the resumption of suspension by Iran of nuclear activities might jeopardize them, as Iran repeats that enriching uranium, the most important step in producing nuclear weapons, is its right under Non Proliferation Treaty.
The meeting, scheduled for 16 February but abruptly delayed by Tehran without providing any reason is crucial, as tensions over Iran are likely to diminish if Tehran agrees to the Russian proposal — and to balloon if it does not.
I suggest Mr. Douste-Blazy to use the language of diplomacy. We are a responsible country.We are not after nuclear bomb.
"When confidence in the Iranian nuclear program is re-established ... we could come back to the possible implementation of the right that Iran has to develop a nuclear energy sector full scale", said Lavrov.
But Tehran insists the programme is solely for peaceful purposes.
Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani sharply denied the charges made by Mr Douste-Blazy, telling a French radio station that "Contrary to all the propaganda against us, we are not seeking a nuclear bomb, since we are a signatory to NPT".
"I suggest Mr. Douste-Blazy to use the language of diplomacy. We are a responsible country - it is Western propaganda that keeps on saying that Iran is seeking a bomb, but it is not true. We are not after nuclear bomb", he insisted.
French diplomats and experts said while since “at least three years ago” France’s secret service were “certain” that Iran’s nuclear activities are aimed at making nuclear weapons, but this is the first time that a high-ranking political official is spelling it so “loud and clear cut”.
“This shows that a western strategy, led by France, is taking shape to increase progressively pressures over Tehran and Mr. Douste-Blazy’s accusations are in that line”, a French expert told France Info Radio.
“The international community was united on the nuclear issue and that the Security Council would decide how to act after Mr. Mohammad ElBarade’i, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency submits his report on the situation in March”.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he held the same position as Douste-Blazy because he had worked very closely with his French and German counterparts on the Iran issue.
“The onus was on Tehran, given its previous covert activities, to allay suspicions about its nuclear program”, Straw told a news conference during a visit to Algiers.
The Iran nuclear stand off with the international community escalated after the Government of Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, a fundamentalist muslim resumed uranium conversion activities last August.
On 30 January 2006, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany unanimously urged from London the IAEA Board of Directors to consider referring to them the Iranian nuclear case.
The fact that China and Russia, two nations that have extensive trade and military cooperation with the Islamic Republic had joined the United States, France, Britain and Germany in the decision had badly shocked the ruling Iranian clerics who had pinned all their hope on them to derail western efforts to tame Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
In reaction, Tehran said it would stop its voluntarily accepted suspension of nuclear activities, including enriching uranium and reduce its cooperation with the IAEA, starting by cancelling the Additional Protocol to the NPT.
The result was that on 4 February, the 35 members IAEA Board decided by 27 votes to 3 negative and 5 abstentions to refer Iran’s nuclear case to the Security Council, giving Tehran until its next meeting, scheduled for 6 March to give its answer to Russian proposal. ENDS IRAN NUCLEAR 16206