Iranian President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that Tehran would continue talks with European negotiators but vowed to restart the enrichment program, saying Iran needs “peaceful nuclear technology for energy, medical and agricultural purposes”.
On Monday, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said he hoped Iran and the Europeans would stick to a schedule for talks as agreed in Paris in November.
In that accord, Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment activities to head off possible UN sanctions in return for British, French and German guarantees that Iran has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.
“It is absolutely necessary, in EU-Iran relations, that we can continue this diplomatic activity concerning the suspension of the nuclear program,” Douste-Blazy said.
“This is clearly important and we hope it will be possible.”
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer concurred. “The agreement must be kept,” Fischer said after talks with Douste-Blazy and Poland’s foreign minister, Adam Rotfeld, in Poland.
“It is absolutely necessary, in EU-Iran relations, that we can continue this diplomatic activity”
Philippe Douste-Blazy, French foreign minister
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also called on Ahmadinejad to continue talks.
“We look to the Iranian government under its new president-elect to honor these commitments,” Straw said in London.
Germany, France and Britain are leading talks to convince Tehran to freeze its enrichment program, which Washington believes is really intended to help Iran make nuclear weapons.
Tehran has insisted its program has only peaceful purposes.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Sunday that the Europeans would make an “aggressive offer” to Iran regarding its nuclear program, as planned. He added that one cannot bar Tehran from the peaceful use of nuclear energy, “even though some might not like that”.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Monday in Brussels that the offer would be made by the end of July, as agreed with the Iranians at their last meeting in May.
He said he saw no immediate reason to change tack on Iran after Ahmadinejad’s election and insisted talks with the EU troika were on track.
However, he expressed concern about claims of voting irregularities and the EU head office urged Tehran to address the allegations.
“That’s a serious matter, and we believe those complaints should be looked at swiftly and transparently,” European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin said.
Solana reminded Iran’s new leadership that increased trade and economic ties would depend on progress on the nuclear issue and commitments on human rights and the Middle East.
Ahmadinejad said he wants peaceful
“We would very much like to see engagement from the Iranians on all the issues,” Solana said. “We would like very much to get engagements with them on the economic aspects, but we have to see how the new leadership will react.”
The European Union also said the 25-nation bloc also remains committed to pursuing free trade negotiations, set to resume in mid-July.
The bloc’s “ambition remains to build a deeper relationship with Iran and to see it regain its place in the international community,” Udwin said.
“What we have to do is to watch what Iran does, not just listen to what the new president has said,” she said. “We … hope that Iran will take good choices and make good decisions for its own future.”
In comments that differed from the European attitude to the election of a new leadership in Iran, US President George Bush said in a statement released on Monday, that “Iran is ruled by men who suppress liberty at home and spread terror across the world”.
Bush also criticised Iran for blocking hundreds of reformist candidates from running in the elections.
“Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy,” he said.