Iran Threatens Delays in Nuclear Talkshttp://www.nytimes.com/2012/
Iran raised the possibility on Wednesday of delaying or canceling the resumption of nuclear talks with the big powers, scheduled in less than two weeks, because of what it called dithering by the other side in holding preliminary meetings aimed at ensuring some success
The warning, made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the office of Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator in the talks, came as its ambassador to the United Nations nuclear monitoring agency accused some of its inspectors of espionage.
Taken together, the messages suggest that Iran’s leaders have decided to reduce expectations that the negotiations, which resumed in April after a 15-month suspension, would produce an agreement on the country’s disputed nuclear program, or at least lead to an easing of the onerous sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and the European Union. The sanctions are scheduled to turn more severe on July 1, when the European Union bans all imports of Iranian oil, the country’s most important export.
The warning of a possible delay in the next round of talks, to be held in Moscow on June 18 and 19, was conveyed by Mr. Jalili in a letter to his counterpart, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief and chief negotiator for the big powers: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, which reported the letter, said that Mr. Jalili had expressed irritation over what he called “the E.U. failure to arrange experts’ meeting led by deputies of the negotiators to draft agenda of the talks.” The agency said this had “created an atmosphere of doubt and ambiguity for success of the Moscow talks.”
Other Iranian news agencies said that Mr. Jalili’s deputy, Ali Baqeri, had sent two letters to his counterpart in Ms. Ashton’s office, Helga Schmid, requesting such a meeting and had received no response. “The success of the Moscow meeting depends on making the necessary preparations and drawing up a comprehensive agenda,” the Mehr News Agency quoted Mr. Baqeri’s letter as saying.
Mr. Ahmadinejad, who was in Beijing for regional cooperation talks, also expressed irritation, saying Ms. Ashton’s office had failed to keep its promises. “We believe that the West is after concocting excuses and wasting time,” Mr. Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Iran’s Press TV Web site.
A spokeswoman for Ms. Ashton, Maja Kocijancic, said in an e-mailed response for comment that Ms. Ashton had replied to the letter from Mr. Jalili and that she saw no need for further preparatory meetings. “We are not against technical meetings in principle, but the time is not right,” Ms. Kocijancic said.
Western diplomats said they believed that the Iranian requests for such meetings were part of a deliberate effort to bog down the process. Ms. Ashton and fellow negotiators have said they have no patience for stalling tactics or “talks for the sake of talks.”
At the last meeting, on May 23 and 24 in Baghdad, the sides agreed to keep talking after having made no substantive progress in the underlying dispute: Iran’s enrichment of uranium in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding a suspension.
Iran has contended that its growing stockpile of enriched uranium is for peaceful energy and medical uses. The United States, the European Union and Israel have accused Iran of secretly working on the capacity to build nuclear weapons.
The suspicions were reinforced last November in a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations, which cataloged questionable activities in Iran, including possible testing of explosives that could be used in nuclear weapons triggers. Agency inspectors have sought access to the site where they suspect the testing took place, but Iran has not allowed it. Further talks on this issue are planned on Friday at the agency’s Vienna headquarters.
The Iranians have demanded the evidence the agency cited as the basis for its suspicions. They have also complained about what they call the agency’s demand for overly intrusive inspections.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the agency, appeared to go further in his remarks on Wednesday to the agency’s board of governors. “The inspectors, which are supposed to verify fissionable nuclear materials and related nuclear facilities declared by member states according to the Safeguards Agreements, are forced by a couple of states to be involved in intelligence activities,” he said in remarks quoted by Iranian news agencies.
Iran’s nuclear efforts appeared to suffer a further setback this week with news that the country’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, built by Russia, would face indefinite delays in achieving full electricity production. The Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Valery Limarenko, the head of Atomstroyexport, the Russian company that helped build the plant, as saying that further experimental trials were necessary and that the date when it would become fully operational “has not been determined.”
The Bushehr plant has endured numerous delays since 1976, when Iran and a subsidiary of Siemens AG signed the original contract.