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White House Welcomes New Iran-EU Talks


http://gdb.rferl.org/DF141F5F-D703-442B-92E5-6D9010096AA4_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/DF141F5F-D703-442B-92E5-6D9010096AA4_mw800_mh600.jpg Iranian students at a nuclear exhibition in Qom this month (epa) May 31, 2006 -- The George W. Bush administration says it is pleased that Iran is willing to restart talks on its nuclear program with leading European countries.

The remarks, by White House spokesman Tony Snow on May 30, came after Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said Tehran was ready to start talks with Britain, France, and Germany, the so-called EU-3.

"I'd say we're glad they're going back to the EU-3 talks, and we hope that they produce productive results," Snow said. "We've always been clear on the end [goal], which is that we want Iran to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activities, and we wish them success."

In Tehran, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saeedi, said Iran's nuclear activity is "irreversible." The official news agency IRNA quoted Saeedi as saying the Europeans should recognize this "reality" in their proposal aimed at ending the standoff.

Officials from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, are scheduled to meet in Vienna on June 1 to try to narrow divisions over how to induce Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.

Ahead of that meeting, U.S. President Bush discussed Iran's nuclear program in separate phone calls with the Russian, French, and German leaders on May 30.

(compiled from agency reports)
What Would Sanctions Mean?

Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)

MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."


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Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
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THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


CHRONOLOGY

An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.

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