Iran Nuclear Talks: Tehran Giving France the Silent Treatment?

| Tue Oct. 20, 2009 10:17 AM EDT

What do hawkish conservatives in the United States and the top officials of the Tehran regime have in common? Both groups don't trust the French. Julian Borger, a reporter/editor for The Guardian, has been covering the multilateral talks in Vienna on Iran's nuclear program, and he reports on his blog that Iran has been pushing to keep France out of the final deal:

Diplomats involved in the Vienna talks on the possible export and processing of Iran's uranium have confirmed that Iran does not want France to be part of any formal agreement.

Their objection is based on their experience of being a 10% shareholder in a uranium enrichment plant in Drôme, Eurodif, that dates back to 1975 - the Shah era. The investment was made to provide Iran a steady supply of enriched uranium, but that supply has been denied to Iran under UN sanctions.

This is all history and the Iranians were well aware of it when they made an agreement in principle in Geneva on October 1, to send their low enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment and then to France for fabrication into fuel for the Tehran research reactor. This may be more about punishing France for taking the toughest line on Iran in recent months.

The people I have been talking to say this is not a show-stopper. The formal agreement could be between Iran and Russia, and Russia could enter into a separate commercial arrangement with France, or the US could do the fuel fabrication....

Here at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, all the negotiating teams have left the chamber and are holding smaller group meetings in their allotted rooms downstairs. This, say the optimists here, is a good sign. It means the real work is being done. That may just be spin, but there are still plans for the IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei to make some public closing remarks some time this afternoon.

In an update, Borger adds, "Work is underway on drafting an Iranian-Russian bilateral agreement, but it is still not clear whether that would be acceptable to the French and Americans."

Imagine if progress is actually made in these negotiations. Then what will American hawks (like John Bolton, who recently seemed to have called for an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran) do? Look to France to block the deal?

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