Senior EU minister: West may drop demand for Iran to halt all nuclear work

Lithuanian foreign minister says Western nations may be open to allowing some UN supervised uranium enrichment by Iran.

Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor_150 (photo credit: Reuters)
Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor_150
(photo credit: Reuters)
A day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged the world to press for a halt of all Iranian uranium enrichment, a senior EU diplomat said Western governments are considering allowing Tehran to continue enriching some uranium as part of a possible deal with the Islamic Republic.
The new stance – a reaction to President Hassan Rouhani’s overtures to the West – would mean backtracking on several UN Security Council resolutions calling for a complete halt to all enrichment because of concern this was being done to develop nuclear weapons.
In an interview with Reuters, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said: “I believe part of the game is that if the Iranians prove that whatever they are doing is peaceful, it will, as I understand, be possible for them to conduct it.”
“It’s conditional. It is not a done deal, but nevertheless it is a possibility to explore,” he said. “Thanks to this rapprochement.
How it will look, we don’t know.”
Lithuania holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of this year, giving Linkevicius a closer insight into many internal policy debates.
In a series of negotiations since April last year, the P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) have told Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile purity – a level that closes an important technological gap toward making weapons-grade material.
Netanyahu made clear in his address to the UN on Tuesday, however, that any enrichment would be unacceptable for Israel.
“There are those who would readily agree to leave Iran with a residual capability to enrich uranium,” Netanyahu said. “I advise them to pay close attention to what Rouhani said in a speech to Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council.
This was published in 2005: ‘A country that can enrich uranium to about 3.5% will also have the capability to enrich it to about 90%. Having fuel cycle capability virtually means that a country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons.’ Precisely. This is precisely why Iran’s nuclear weapons program must be fully and verifiably dismantled.”
One government official said that declaring a willingness to allow the Iranians to retain uranium enrichment capability before the negotiations even begin – the next round between Iran and the six world powers will be held in two weeks – is simply unwise negotiating tactics.
Secondly, the official pointed out, if the Iranians – as they claim – want to have a civilian nuclear program, they do not need to enrich uranium, but could rather get fuel rods from another country.
“There are 40 countries around the world that have peaceful nuclear programs and don’t enrich uranium themselves,” he said. “Any enrichment from our point of view would be problematic because of Iran’s