Iran's Response to International Pressure over Nukes
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, when a smooch on the lips can turn into an actual kiss of death. First this, in London Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is dividing her time between meetings about the Middle East and the radical Palestinian group Hamas, we covered that story earlier in the show, and other meetings about Iran's nuclear program. In the Iran talks, she meets with European, Russian, and Chinese officials. Day to Day's Madeline Brand got a preview from NPR diplomatic correspondent Mike Shuster. Here's that interview.
MADELINE BRAND, host:
Mike, the U.S., major European powers, Russia, and China are meeting, and I understand they are not all in agreement with what to do about Iran.
MIKE SHUSTER, reporting:
No, they're not all in agreement, Madeline. It's probably true to say that all agree that Iran shouldn't get nuclear weapons. I think even China, which is sort of the last on board on that concept, has now come out, some of its top officials have said that they do not approve of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. But, of course, the Iranian leaders say they're not after nuclear weapons, they're after nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and they want to develop a nuclear power industry.
And, at that stage of the game, there's great divergence on the part of all these nations about what to do about Iran. There's great suspicion on the part of the Europeans and the United States that the Iranians really want to get the atomic bomb. Russia is less convinced. China is less convinced. And they're not sure what to do about the peaceful side of nuclear technology.
BRAND: And Russia had an interesting proposal. Tell us about that.
SHUSTER: At this stage of the game, Russia is Iran's most important partner on nuclear technology. The Russians are already building, nearly completed, a nuclear power plant in Iran. And the Russians said, well all right, if the Iranians want to possess the whole, what's called the nuclear fuel cycle, that is, to have a guaranteed stream of nuclear fuel for power plants, which involves enriching uranium, we'll do it in conjunction with Iran, but in Russia.
So, they essentially proposed building a new facility for uranium enrichment in Russia with Iranian management, Iranian financial participation, that would be devoted exclusively to producing highly enriched uranium nuclear fuel for the Iranians. But, in effect, off-shore, outside of Iran, so that this would satisfy the concerns of others like the United States and the Europeans that Iran couldn't secretly use this process to create a stash of what's called fissile material for a nuclear weapon.
BRAND: So, this enriched uranium that would be produced in Russia would only be used for peaceful purposes?
SHUSTER: Yes. For one thing, the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes is not as pure as enriching uranium for the bomb, and so the facility could control what level of enrichment it would bring uranium to, and therefore, at least establish some guarantee that the Iranians couldn't use this to secretly manufacture a nuclear weapon.
BRAND: And what does the West say about that?
SHUSTER: The United States likes the idea. The Europeans like the idea, and a few days ago, the Chinese came on board. This seems to have the support, now, of the international community, those nations that are dealing with Iran. The problem is that Iran hasn't agreed to it. There have been conflicting statements from the Iranian leaders. Some have rejected it outright. Others have said, well, this is an interesting idea.
Last week, one of the key Iranian leaders, Ali Larijani, who's head of their National Security Council, was in Moscow and in Beijing talking about this, and suggested that the Iranians were open to continue talks about it, but they haven't committed themselves, by no means have they committed themselves to this plan.
BRAND: Now, if they reject this plan, does that mean, then, that the West will go to the U.N. and ask for sanctions?
SHUSTER: Well, it's not clear this week whether Iran will make a decision on that at all, and we have a meeting on Thursday of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, and the issue is before, this is an emergency meeting. The issue is before the IAEA, its board of governors. And the United States does want to push this to the Security Council, regardless of what position Iran is taking right now.
The other nations are not sure about that. I think some of the Europeans are on board, the Russians and the Chinese, again, are less eager to see it go to the Security Council. So, we don't really know how it's going to play out at the end of this week.
BRAND: And you are headed to Iran. What will you be reporting on?
SHUSTER: Well, I'll be there when the issue gets to the IAEA at the end of this week, and so I'll be reporting on Iran's reaction to what happens at the IAEA, and more broadly on the Iranian issue, the Iranian nuclear issue. There are also a lot of good stories to cover. NPR hasn't had a reporter in Iran since the presidential election, which was last spring. There's a new president, a new regime. He's a very controversial figure, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We need to do some reporting on him, what he plans for Iran, how the Iranian people react to him. So, there's lots to report about.
BRAND:And we'll be listening for your reports. Thank you.
SHUSTER: Thank you.
BRAND: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Mike Shuster.
CHADWICK: And thanks to Day to Day's Madeline Brand for that interview. More in a moment on Day to Day from NPR News.