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Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Program

Amman/Brussels, 27 October 2003: Last week’s agreement between Iran and three EU states is a welcome and important step, but the controversy surrounding Tehran’s nuclear program is far from over.

According to the International Crisis Group’s latest report, Dealing with Iran’s Nuclear Program,* the EU initiative and positive Iranian response will head off a collision in the short run. It shows that Europe’s policy coupling pressure and engagement can produce results. But given the underlying U.S.-Iranian distrust and for the agreement to be more than a short-lived reprieve, it needs to be vigorously followed up and strengthened.

“Key issues have been deferred, not resolved”, says Robert Malley, ICG’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “The challenge now is to use this breathing space to tackle the questions of implementation, the future of Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, and Iran’s own security concerns”.

The evidence of whether Iran’s nuclear program has a military component is mixed but disturbing, and by no means to the U.S. alone. Concerns about Iran’s capacity are matched by concerns about its intentions; Tehran’s pattern of behaviour has rightly been cause for unease.

The EU states’ initiative should be embraced also by the U.S. On paper, the agreement signals Iran’s acceptance of the core International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands. Iran has pledged to answer all IAEA questions; sign the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and commence ratification; and suspend uranium enrichment and processing. Building on this requires steps by all concerned.

First, Iran must immediately and unconditionally implement its commitments. Secondly, it should agree to intrusive, unrestricted onsite inspection of all nuclear sites and research centres and pledge that if it decides to resume uranium enrichment, it will do so only under permanent onsite monitoring, possibly involving joint Iranian/international site management. Pending a solid track record of transparent behaviour, Iran also should agree to halt all efforts to build a heavy water reactor. Finally, as a further confidence building measure, Iran should put limitations on its missile research and deployment.

If Iran responds along these lines, the international community should reciprocate by addressing Tehran’s legitimate economic and security concerns. The EU and Russia should provide modern nuclear technology and materials for peaceful purposes, and the U.S. should pledge not to interfere. Confidence building measures aimed at reassuring Iran – such as a U.S. commitment not to use force against it and to resume bilateral contacts on Iraq and Afghanistan, and preparations for a regional security forum – also should be implemented.

“A sustainable negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear impasse is far preferable to any alternative”, says Robin Bhatty, ICG Middle East Senior Analyst. “To succeed, Iran will need to accept extensive inspection exceeding what is required by the NPT and the Additional Protocol, and the U.S. will need to accept greater Iranian nuclear capacity than it currently appears comfortable with”.

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 485 555 946
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
To contact ICG media please click here
*Read the report in full on our website: http://www.crisisweb.org/

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