Following a tense few weeks, Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and the foreign ministers from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom agreed May 25 to continue negotiations regarding Tehran’s gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Significantly, Iran appears to have agreed to back off earlier threats to resume work on the program.
Additionally, the European ministers agreed to make “detailed proposals” to Iran by August, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters.
Although several Iranian officials had warned that Tehran would end negotiations if dissatisfied with the one-day meeting’s outcome, Rowhani expressed optimism after the meeting, telling reporters that the two sides can now likely reach agreement “in a reasonably short time.” The May 25 agreement still awaits Iran’s formal approval.
Tehran agreed in November to suspend its enrichment program while the two sides negotiate a “mutually acceptable agreement,” which includes “objective guarantees” that Iran’s nuclear program is “exclusively for peaceful purposes” as well as cooperative arrangements on economic, political, and security matters. (See ACT, December 2004.)
Iran’s European interlocutors want complete cessation of the program, but Tehran continues to resist the idea. Uranium enrichment can produce fuel for civilian nuclear reactors as well as fissile material for nuclear weapons.
The Europeans suggested the meeting after Iran in late April began threatening to resume work at its uranium-conversion facility. Such facilities can convert lightly processed uranium ore into feedstock for centrifuges. The November suspension agreement includes “all tests or production at any uranium conversion installation.”