EU to Keep up Pressure on Iran after US Report | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.12.2007
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EU to Keep up Pressure on Iran after US Report

A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana said the European Union would keep up its twin track approach of dialogue and pressure. The report stated that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

A picture of an Iranian flag with a missile

Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, a US report said

For nearly 18 months, Solana has been trying to persuade the Islamic republic to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for a bundle of political, trade and economic incentives.

Solana's spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach, said the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report "proves that transparency about (Iran's) nuclear activities and its intentions are fundamental."

But US President George W. Bush said that Iran remains a danger and refused to rule out a military attack despite the new findings.

"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," Bush told a White House press conference.

The International Atomic Agency Director General Mohamed El Baradei said on Tuesday, Nov. 4, that the report tallied with the IAEA investigation into the country's nuclear program.

A number of European countries, including Germany, have already welcomed the US report as confirming that Europe's strategy of negotiations plus sanctions is keeping Tehran in line with international demands.

The NIE report confirmed "the double approach chosen by the international community of incentives and measures from the United Nations Security Council was right," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement released Monday, Nov. 3.

Britain's foreign ministry also said the carrot-and-stick approach was working to keep Iran in line with international demands.

"The report's conclusions justify the action already taken by the international community to get to the bottom of Iran's nuclear program and to increase pressure on the regime to stop its enrichment and reprocessing activities," a British foreign ministry spokeswoman told the AFP news agency.

International pressure successful

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier said the double approach of sanctions and incentives needed to continue

The National Intelligence Estimate, a consensus of all 16 US spy agencies, said in a report Monday that it was confident that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in late 2003. NIE cited "moderate confidence" that the program had not been restarted as of mid-2007.

Tehran could have the technical ability to build a nuclear weapon between 2010 and 2015, but "we do not know if it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons," the report stated.

Iran appears "less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," the NIE said. The report concluded that it was likely that Tehran had halted its nuclear program in response to international pressure, which "suggests that Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously."

Europe's mixed approach to Iran

Satellite picture of an Iranian nuclear plant

Military work at Iran's nuclear facilities may have stopped four years ago

The United Nations Security Council has brought sanctions against Iran twice for refusing to discontinue its uranium enrichment program. Enriched uranium can be used to build nuclear weapons, but Iran has consistently said its program is purely used for civilian purposes.

The five permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the USA -- plus Germany met in Paris over the weekend to discuss a third sanctions resolution but did not reach an agreement.

In 2004 and 2005, Germany, along with Britain and France, led a diplomatic initiative with Tehran in which trade and other economic incentives were discussed in exchange for a halt on the uranium enrichment program.

While the so-called EU-3 has since supported UN-led sanctions against Iran, it has also remained open to a more diplomatic strategy.

Report may be face-saver

An Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan

Tehran welcomed the report, saying it confirmed Iran's nuclear plans are peaceful

US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said the report shouldn't be taken as a reason to lose vigilance.

"There's going to be a tendency of a lot of people to say: 'The problem's less bad that we thought, let's relax,'" said Hadley. "Our view is that would be a mistake."

Hadley denied that US rhetoric on Iran had escalated to step up international pressure. In October, US President George W. Bush raised the specters of "World War III" or a "nuclear holocaust" occurring should Teheran build a nuclear bomb.

The estimate could have been a "face saving decision" because Bush is not willing to strike militarily and has exhausted the efforts at the UN Security Council, Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute told the DPA news agency.

"At this stage of the game it is better to underplay the threat," he said.

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