Region: European Union calls on Iran to open nuclear sites
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
BRUSSELS: The European Union ditched its softly-softly policy towards Iran yesterday, ordering the clerical regime to give weapons inspectors “urgent and unconditional” access to its nuclear facilities.
At the same time the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency called on Teheran to accept stricter, more intrusive inspections after finding that Iran had failed to report “certain nuclear material and activities”.
Ali Salehi: Iran may agree to EU request in return for further nuclear assistance
Lining up behind the United States, EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg voiced “serious concerns” that Iran’s atomic energy programme was being used to conceal an attempt to build nuclear weapons.
They called for unrestricted co-operation with the IAEA, stressing the need for Iran to answer “timely, fully and adequately” all questions about its nuclear programme.
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said further stonewalling would cost Iran any hope of restoring normal commercial ties with the West. “We have been negotiating a trade and co-operation agreement with Teheran which we wish to see in place, but it is essential too that we see good progress on non-proliferation compliance by Iran and on human rights,” he said.
For the first time, the EU backed pre-emptive military strikes against states developing weapons of mass destruction, provided it is done with the full backing of the United Nations Security Council. The joint statement said “coercive measures could be envisioned” as a last resort if diplomatic efforts have been exhausted and weapons inspectors are unable to do their job.
Though couched in cautious language, diplomats said the communique was a clear warning to Teheran that it could not to count on Europe to undermine the increasing pressure from Washington. “The acquisition of WMD or related materials by terrorists would represent an additional threat to the international system with potentially uncontrollable consequences,” said the text.
Mohammed ElBaradei, the director-general of the IAEA, called on Iran to allow his inspectors access to any site, rather than only those declared by Teheran.
He said Iran should agree to more inspections “at an early date in order to enhance the [IAEA’s] ability to provide credible assurances regarding the peaceful nature of its nuclear activities”.
A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said Teheran might agree to the request, but reiterated demands for access to nuclear technology in exchange.
Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Ali Salehi, said the organisation “should send the right signal” and not “use the language of force”.
The dramatic change in EU policy shows how far Brussels has gone since the Iraq war to align its strategic thinking on weapons proliferation with the Bush administration, even though Saddam Hussein’s alleged biological and chemical arsenal is still proving elusive, eight weeks after the collapse of his regime. Diplomats said France played a key role in pushing through the new strategic doctrine in tandem with Britain, despite strong German reservations.
Startled by the unforgiving mood in Washington, Paris is keen to reassert itself as a dependable ally and a credible player on the world stage. Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, said the French share CIA assessments that Iran is two or three years away from developing nuclear weapons.
“The French have always been tough on weapons of mass destruction. The problem over Iraq was not about the use of force but about letting the US attack whenever it felt like it, without authorisation,” he said. “The German position was quite different, since Berlin was against the use of force on principle.” —LDT
Intellectuals challenge Ayatollah
TEHRAN: More than 250 Iranian university teachers and writers have issued a public statement calling on the nation’s all-powerful spiritual leader to abandon the notion he is God’s unchallenged representative on Earth. The newspaper statement calling on the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to be more accountable to the population came as Tehran entered its seventh consecutive night of anti-clerical protests. As on other nights, Monday’s demonstrations involved hundreds of cars jamming streets around Tehran University, although observers said numbers were diminishing. Police roadblocks kept Islamic hardliners from the area to prevent a repeat of earlier attacks on protesters. Iran has accused the United States of aiding the demonstrators demanding changes in the country’s Islamic leadership. —CNN
France detains Iranian opposition members
PARIS: Masked and heavily armed French police raided the offices Tuesday of an Iranian opposition group, Mujahedeen Khalq, rounding up 165 members and seizing $1.3 million. On the orders of France’s leading anti-terrorism judge, some 1,300 police poured into the streets and blew down doors of offices of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran early Tuesday in a vast sweep of sites north and west of Paris. Police also seized large quantities of computer material and sophisticated transmission systems, an investigator said on condition of anonymity. Maryam Rajavi, wife of Mujahedeen leader Massoud Rajavi, and Saleh Rajavi, Massoud’s brother, were among those detained, judicial officials said. Massoud Rajavi is based in Iraq where the group, also known as Mujahedeen Khalq, has its National Liberation Army of Iran, which has been fighting the Muslim clerical government in Tehran. —UAT