EU asks Iran to open nuclear program to greater int'l scrutiny

Call contained in a speech delivered Monday by Slovenia, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, to a closed conference.

Bushehr 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bushehr 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The European Union has asked Iran to open its secretive nuclear program to greater international scrutiny by joining a treaty that would let the US and other nations Teheran is at odds with review the safety of its nearly finished nuclear plant, according to a speech made available Wednesday to The Associated Press. The call was contained in a speech delivered Monday by Slovenia, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, to a closed conference reviewing the safety records of some of the more than 60 nations that have adopted the treaty. While countries that have ratified the convention cannot be forced to divulge information on their nuclear programs, the treaty does give them a chance to review each others' safety programs and ask questions linked to fellow signatories' nuclear work. Iran hopes to start up its Russian-built Bushehr reactor later this year. A diplomat attending the meeting said that with Teheran under three sets UN sanctions because of fears it might want to develop atomic arms, any additional window on its nuclear activities gained through its acceptance of the convention would be important. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the proceedings inside the two-week meeting that ends April 25. Singling out Iran as "the only country building a nuclear power plant without being a contracting party to the Convention on Nuclear Safety," the EU called "on Iran to accede to the convention." Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is sponsoring the meeting, said he could not comment because "I am not familiar with the contents of the speech." But the diplomat said that - despite pressure from Moscow - there had been no indication that Teheran was looking to join the convention, which would allow the United States and others accusing Teheran of trying to make nuclear arms a window into the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Another diplomat said Washington and its allies supported the European call for Iran to join the convention. Besides building the Bushehr plant for Iran, Russia has also provided the nuclear fuel for the plant, completing its shipments of uranium to the southern city early this year. Iran has said the plant will begin operating in the summer of 2008, producing half its 1,000-megawatt capacity of electricity. The US initially opposed Russia's contract for building the Bushehr reactor and supplying it with fuel, but later softened its position as Iran agreed to return spent nuclear fuel from the reactor to Russia to ensure it doesn't extract plutonium from it to make atomic bombs. The US also was looking for Russian cooperation within the UN Security Council on how to counter Iran's defiance of council demands that it stop uranium enrichment, a potential pathway to nuclear arms. The United States and Russia have said the supply of nuclear fuel means Iran has no need to continue its own uranium enrichment program - a process that can provide fuel for a reactor or fissile material for a bomb. Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needed to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it was building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.