Tehran's No. 1 demand for Iran nuclear talks in Moscow
In the buildup to next week's Iran nuclear talks in Moscow, Tehran has demanded that Western powers formally acknowledge its right to enrich uranium.
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Middle East Editor
Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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That is one of five Iranian proposals will be on the table at next week's Iran nuclear talks in Moscow, the third round in negotiations that were renewed this spring. The Moscow talks, held June 18-19, will be crucial in determining whether any headway can be made on the diplomatic track before a European oil embargo that is due to take effect next month.
A drumbeat of comments from Iranian officials in recent weeks – all insisting on Iran's "inalienable right" to enrich uranium – seem to be trying to build a case for blaming Western powers if the talks in Moscow fail by making their opening position clear.
Earlier this week Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said that Iran is "very serious and prepared" for the negotiations. "Grounds for the success of this meeting depend on the manner of cooperation and positive and constructive approach of the [P5+1]," he said, according to Fars News Agency. "The more seriously they will be ready to enter the talks and recognize our inalienable rights, the more the grounds will be for the success of the talks."
While Iran in principle has the right to enrichment as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the West has insisted that it suspend all enrichment activity until it can assuage international concerns that it is conducting nuclear weapons-related work under the guise of a civilian nuclear power program.
Article IV of the NPT does make reference to the "inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination" – but under the condition that that right is exercised in conformity with Articles I and II, which prohibit the development and/or transfer of nuclear-weapons technology.
"Under NPT, uranium enrichment is a definite right of the Islamic Republic of Iran and any other NPT member. There is no prohibition under NPT over any kind of enrichment for peaceful purposes," Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, told parliament yesterday, according to Bloomberg. "It's possible that we may need higher or lower enrichment for other peaceful applications. This is our right, and we must be able to exercise this right."
Iran has enriched uranium not only to the 5 percent level required for nuclear energy, but also to 20 percent, which it says is necessary for a medical research reactor.
But Western powers involved in negotiations – comprised of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, and known as the P5+1 – are concerned because enriching to 20 percent is a process that is technically close to enriching to weapons-grade of 90 percent or more.