Tehran firm on nuclear question

26 September 2003
Iran paraded its new Shahab-3 missiles on 22 September amid fierce internal debate on how to respond to international pressure over its nuclear power programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted in mid-September to give Iran an end-October deadline to fully disclose the extent of its nuclear programme and sign two additional protocols to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), giving the body more intrusive inspection rights.

Tehran has reacted defiantly to the IAEA's demands. The country's representative to the nuclear watchdog, Ali Akbar Salehi, insisted on 22 September that Iran had acted with 'good will and transparency' in permitting inspectors to visit sites that did not fall under the NPT. However, following the IAEA vote, he said that Iran would no longer exceed its obligations and would instead adhere only to the explicit commitments it has already signed up to.

Iranian conservatives are calling for a complete withdrawal from the NPT, which they regard as a tool of US pressure. Reformists have been put on the back foot by the IAEA decision to impose a deadline. Their softer approach, attempting to balance European engagement against the US, is now being dismissed by hardliners as a failure.

Iran, surprised by the vehemence of European demands for it to sign up to the new protocols, has ascribed the call to a desire on the part of France and Germany to improve relations with Washington. Yet, there are strong signs that European and US policy towards Iran remains as divergent as ever. There are reports that the UK, France and Germany in August offered Iran greater access to nuclear technology in return for its co-operation on signing the new protocols. However, they also demanded Iran give up its controversial uranium enrichment programme. Iran turned down the offer.

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