- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 31, 2005

TEHRAN — Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said his European counterparts have proposed a guarantee that Iran will not be invaded if Tehran agrees to a permanent halt of uranium enrichment, the state-run news agency said yesterday.

Hasan Rowhani said Europeans are discussing the proposal, which includes several important points such as “guarantees about Iran’s integrity, independence, national sovereignty” and “nonaggression toward Iran,” the Islamic Republic News Agency said.

“If Europe enjoys a serious political will about Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle, there will be the possibility of understanding,” the agency quoted Mr. Rowhani as saying in a letter to outgoing Iranian President Mohammed Khatami.

Iran has been negotiating with France, Britain and Germany, which are acting on behalf of the 25-member European Union.

A senior European diplomat who is accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and is familiar with the talks confirmed that the Europeans were offering the Iranians “security guarantees,” but the diplomat said no country could give “a 100 percent guarantee” to another country that it would not be invaded.

The diplomat spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the confidential negotiations with the press.

Other incentives offered by European negotiators include promoting political and security cooperation between Iran and Europe, considering Iran as a chief source of energy for Europe and supporting Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization, Mr. Rowhani’s letter said.

Even so, Iran threatened to resume its nuclear program as early as today.

“Today or tomorrow, we will send a letter to the IAEA about resumption of activity in the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. “We would like to unseal the equipment and carry on the activity under the IAEA.”

Top officials were to meet last night for a final decision on when to resume work at a reprocessing center in Isfahan, said Ali Agha Mohammadi, spokesman for the powerful Supreme National Security Council.

“Europe has only a few hours, up to when the council meets,” to formally present its proposal including the security guarantees, Mr. Agha Mohammadi told state-run radio. “If it does not arrive by that time, the council will discuss breaking the ice” on the nuclear freeze.

Mr. Asefi said IAEA inspectors already were in Tehran, which means a short flight to the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

“Since our nuclear policy is transparent and legal, we will start activity upon delivering the letter to the IAEA, with the inspectors in attendance,” Mr. Asefi said.

Once the Isfahan plant resumes work, Mr. Asefi said, Tehran no longer will discuss halting activities there.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said a resumption of work at the uranium reprocessing center “would be an unnecessary and damaging step.”

“Should the Iranians persist, we will as a first step consult urgently with our partners on the board of the IAEA,” the spokesman said.

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