Experts warn Iran’s nuclear menace is real
* Describe the nuclear standoff as a test for Europe
* Claim that Russia and China will play a pivotal role in UNSC
PARIS: International experts meeting in Paris have warned that the dangers of Iran’s nuclear programme must be taken seriously, but say the chances are small of a swift resolution of the standoff via the UN Security Council.
“These last weeks have convinced me that the Iranian regime is indeed seeking to move into nuclear arms,” said Frederic Encel, a specialist in geopolitics attending a seminar organised on Tuesday evening by the London-based Gulf Intelligence Monitor research institute. Earlier on Tuesday Tehran made its bluntest response yet to western pressure over its atomic programme, warning that it could withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and restrict oil sales to countries which it deems are on the wrong side in the dispute.
“This is an extremely important test for Europe,” said Encel. He said he was ‘agreeably surprised’ by the determination of the troika (Germany, France and Britain) which has now asked the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to take Iran before the UN Security Council.
For Bruno Tertrais of the Foundation for Strategic Research, “certain elements in Iran’s nuclear programme only make sense if the country has an interest in the military option.” “The Iranians want to have access to the entire nuclear cycle ... Over the last 20 years they have hidden the presence of a large number of installations,” he said.
Mohamed Mohadessine, a leader of the exiled opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran, warned that “if it is not stopped, Tehran will have the bomb in two or three years.” He called on the EU troika and the United States to “transmit the Iranian dossier to the Security Council and impose an oil and technological embargo. Such sanctions would not allow the regime to use the people’s wealth and western technology to acquire nuclear bombs. It would slow down the process.”
But Georges Le Guelte, a former secretary of the governing council of the IAEA, warned against “having any illusions over taking the issue to the Security Council” where Russia and China take a different line from the United States and the Europeans.
Even if Iran is taken before the council, “we shall be at the start not the end of a process,” he said. “That is why we need to envisage a number of supplementary pressures, whether or not the Security Council tack succeeds,” said Francois Loncle, vice-president of the foreign affairs committee of the French National Assembly. Sanctions would be very hard to put in place, participants warned. “What happened in Iraq does not exactly encourage the idea of a water-tight sanctions regime,” said Claude Goasguen, a French parliamentarian from the ruling UMP party.
“We are well aware that oil companies are capable of trading with Iran outside the established norms. Barrels of oil bought on the sly by certain companies based in France would not help. “These economic interests are considerable and encourage Iran to think that there is no united front among the democracies but merely economic interests that are open to certain accommodations,” Goasguen said. afp