Iran Seeks More Centrifuges

ByABC News
May 3, 2005, 8:47 AM

May 3, 2005 — -- Iran is seeking approval from France, Germany and the United Kingdom for the "assembly, installation and testing" of 3,000 uranium centrifuges at a key nuclear facility, and has warned the Europeans that it may decide this week to resume nuclear fuel production.

ABC News has obtained a copy of the official proposal authored by Iran and presented in late March to France, Germany and the United Kingdom (known as the EU-3). The paper, entitled "General Framework for Objective Guarantees, Firm Guarantees and Firm Commitments" was the subject of discussions in London last Friday between Iran and the EU-3. To date, the United States and its European allies have been opposed to any resumption of Iran's centrifuge enrichment program because of concerns that it could be used to produce uranium for nuclear weapons. Iran's latest proposal was not accepted during last week's London meetings.

Iran's proposal outlines a series of steps that would both advance its nuclear program and purportedly assure the world of its peaceful intentions. Among these are the installation of 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz (located between Isfahan and Kashan in central Iran), and the near-term resumption of work at Esfahan, where Iran maintains a facility for the conversion of uranium ore to hexafluoride (UF6), the gas used in centrifuge enrichment.

In concert with these actions, Iran would have the EU support private and public investment in Iran, undertake feasibility studies for new nuclear power plants in Iran, and eventually sign contracts for the construction of such plants. Iran would also adopt legislation committing it to peaceful nuclear energy and issue policy declarations committing it to low levels of uranium enrichment.

Both the looming threat of uranium conversion work at Esfahan restarting, and Iran's proposal for 3,000 centrifuges, are a measure of the gulf between Iran and the United States, and the challenges facing the EU-3, which is seeking to prolong negotiations at least until after Iran's June elections.