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Iranian Counter-Proposal Conflict of Interest

The continuing talks between the EU’s Javier Solana and Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ari Larijani have yet to yield any tangible results. Critics argue that the net effect is another successful stall by the Iranians as they seek to master the nuclear fuel cycle in parallel. The Iranian delegation has put forth a counter-proposal to Solana in response to the European proposal that offered various incentives in exchange for a halt to Iranian enrichment.

The Iranian counter-proposal to the original European incentive-laden proposal reportedly calls for a French-led consortium to monitor Iranian uranium enrichment to take place within the Islamic Republic of Iran. The deputy chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saeedi, offered that “In this way France, through its companies Eurodif and Areva, would have a tangible way of checking our activities.”

Such a proposal offers a clear conflict of interest, as the Iranian regime “owns shares of Eurodif, through the French-Iranian company SOFIDIF.” This French uranium enrichment technology company (Eurodif) is owned by a larger French nuclear technology firm, Areva. The parent company is described as “the world’s leading atomic technology firm.” This is a dubious scenario of tangled interests and influence, especially considering even the IAEA’s own lead nuclear inspector for the Iranian dossier was reportedly fired at Iran’s request.

But France rejected Iran’s ‘partnership proposal’ not long after Javier Solana remarked at a meeting with European defense ministers that the Iranian proposal “is something we have to analyze in greater detail.”

Curiously, the French rejection did not address the conflict of interest issue, but rather rejected it on the grounds that Iran must first cease uranium enrichment operations before negotiating a consortium. That Solana’s EU-sponsored Iranian negotiations have already continued without any cessation perplexes critics.

For his part, Solana did impart yesterday to the gathering of European defense ministers that time is not unlimited for Iran saying, “We don’t have an infinite length of time in front of us.” Within the same conversation, Solana also touted “progress on some elements” while the issue of enrichment cessation “has not been finally agreed.” Iran has repeatedly insisted that enrichment is their non-negotiable right.

The United States wants an Iranian answer this week on the enrichment cessation as called for by the UN Security Council, and is prepared to interpret another ambiguous answer as a ‘No’.