EU frustration mounts over Iran nuclear dispute

European Union foreign ministers expressed frustration yesterday at Iran’s failure to respond clearly to a United Nations deal on nuclear fuel processing and said they hoped to hear from Tehran this week.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran could endorse the deal, in the first official indication that Tehran could respond positively to an outline agreement reached at the beginning of the month.
But EU ministers who discussed Iran at talks in Luxembourg said a clear response was needed to the deal, under which Iran would agree to send potential nuclear fuel abroad for processing.
“Mr Mottaki makes declarations and more declarations. They are rarely very enthusiastic, they are rarely very positive. Let’s wait,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters.
“We are waiting for the decision. There is not one for the moment. Perhaps there will be Friday.”
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the EU foreign ministers had agreed new discussions would be needed on Iran if there was no response from Tehran.
“Iran cannot play and play and play with us,” he said. “Here we expect a concrete and serious answer from Iran concerning this proposition, which has not been made by the West it was also made by Russia.”
Matter of urgency
Kouchner said earlier this week it was urgent for world powers to make a lasting deal with Tehran to avert an Israeli strike over its disputed nuclear program.
Understandings on the fuel plan and UN monitoring of the enrichment site under construction were reached at talks in Geneva between Iran and six world powers on October 1.
EU foreign policy Chief Javier Solana, who has led negotiating efforts by the Western powers with Iran, declined to say whether the EU was prepared to move to new sanctions.
“I don’t want to answer what is going to happen because I hope they will say ‘Yes’,” he said.
Iranian officials said UN inspectors had been given access to a hitherto secret uranium enrichment site in a mountain near the holy Shi’ite city of Qom.
The aim of their visit was to verify Tehran’s stance that the plant was designed to make only low-enriched fuel for electricity, not the high-purity version for nuclear arms.
Solana said it could be that the Iranians were waiting for the inspectors to leave before delivering a response.
“But for the moment we don’t have a response,” he said. “I hope that by the end of the month we will know something.”