- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

LONDON — Iran has issued a list of demands to Britain and other European countries, telling them to provide advanced nuclear technology, conventional weapons and a security guarantee against nuclear attack by Israel.

Iran’s request, said by British officials to have “gone down very badly,” sharply raises the stakes in the crisis over the country’s nuclear program, which the United States and Britain say is aimed at making atomic bombs.

Tehran’s move came during crisis talks this month in Paris with senior diplomats from Britain, France and Germany.

The three European nations were trying to persuade Iranian officials to honor an earlier deal to suspend its uranium-enrichment program.

Enriched uranium can be used to fuel nuclear-power stations or to make simple atomic bombs, such as the ones dropped on Japan toward the end of World War II.

Iranian officials refused to comply, saying they had every right under international law to pursue peaceful nuclear technology.

They then stunned the Europeans by presenting a letter setting out their own demands.

Iran said Europe should support Tehran’s quest for “advanced [nuclear] technology, including those with dual use” — a reference to equipment that has civilian as well as military applications.

The Europeans should “remove impediments” preventing Iran from having such technology and stick to these commitments, even if faced with “legal or political … limitations,” an allusion to U.S. pressure or even future international sanctions against Iran.

In Vienna, Austria, yesterday, the United Nations’ atomic agency reported that, in at least one case, traces of enriched uranium that had been discovered by international inspectors on Iranian nuclear equipment had originated in Pakistan.

Diplomats in Vienna, who are familiar with Iran’s nuclear dossier being compiled by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the latest findings appear to bolster Iran’s assertion that traces of enriched uranium were inadvertently imported on “contaminated” equipment that it bought on the black market.

In Washington, the Bush administration said it was awaiting the full report on the agency’s findings and was not swayed in its suspicions about Iran’s covert nuclear agenda.

“Obviously, we think Iran has a weapons program; we think the evidence points to that,” said Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman. “What’s troubling is that there are not clear, consistent answers that are provided in an open and transparent way … as promised.”

At the recent meeting with the three European nations, Iran also said Europe should help Tehran obtain conventional weapons and even “provide security assurances” against a nuclear attack on the country, British officials said.

This was a reference to Israel’s nuclear arsenal, thought to include about 200 warheads and the long-range missiles to deliver them.

The European nations are debating how to respond, but British officials said the Iranian letter was “extremely surprising, given the delicate state of process.”

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reportedly said Europe would have to decide whether to adopt a more confrontational policy.

The United States is demanding that the board of governors of the IAEA, which meets next month, refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

U.S. officials also are discussing covert means of disrupting the Iranian nuclear program, and Israel has openly threatened military action.

In 1981, Israel bombed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad that was being built with French help.

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