Europe restates support for Iran nuclear power

European Union foreign ministers are tomorrow expected to restate the bloc’s willingness to help Iran develop a civilian nuclear power program if the Islamic republic agrees to international controls to ensure it will not build atomic weapons.

A meeting document posted on Friday on the EU’s Website said the ministers were likely to express the Union’s, ”preparedness to support Iran’s development of a safe, sustainable and proliferation-proof civilian nuclear program, if international concerns were fully addressed.”

The EU and the US fear Iran’s nuclear research program is a cover for the development of nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program is peaceful and its only aim is to generate nuclear power.

The Europeans are seeking to build on a package of economic and political incentives offered to Iran in August last year in return for a permanent end to uranium enrichment activities.

Iran rejected that deal, but EU governments have continued to offer sweeteners to try to persuade Iran to bring its nuclear program into line with international demands, as well as pushing at the United Nations for measures that could lead to sanctions if Iran refuses.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog welcomed the EU moves.

“European Union is preparing a package of proposals to present Iran which is a positive thing because as I have always said a solution, a comprehensive solution, to the Iranian issue needs to address all the issues of security, economics trade, etc.,” Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said yesterday.

Germany, France and Britain – who are leading the European efforts – are working to outline possible advantages Iran might be offered if it complied with international demands. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Friday that the EU was seeking to pave the way for the resumption of negotiations with the Iranians.

Meanwhile, Iran’s president has won support from fellow Muslim leaders for his contested uranium enrichment program, as he told the world there was no reason to be nervous about his nuclear ambitions.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in Indonesia that he has co-operated fully with the UN nuclear agency and was willing to hold talks about the deepening international stand-off with anyone except long-time foe Israel and countries who hold “bombs over our heads.”

The hard-line leader made the comments yesterday after meeting heads of state and prime ministers from Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey and Malaysia and government ministers from Egypt and Bangladesh.

Though they were on the resort island of Bali to discuss ways to boost economic and political cooperation, alleviate poverty and restructure debt it was impossible to ignore Iran’s intensifying nuclear stalemate with the West.

Fears that Iran is trying to build nuclear warheads were aggravated on Friday, when diplomats said UN inspectors may have found traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment from an Iranian research centre linked to the military.

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