02 November 2007

Britain's Prime Minister Considers Saudi Plan To Give Iran Limited Supply Of Uranium

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown is considering a Saudi plan to limit the supply of uranium to potential nuclear weapons states and will call for new European Union sanctions against Iran in the next few weeks, most probably in the form of an end to export credit guarantees.

U.S.-allied Gulf states said Thursday they are planning a consortium to provide enough enriched uranium for Iran's civil nuclear program, which they believe could be a deterrent against the development of nuclear weapon.

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, who announced the plan, discussed it with his British counterpart, David Miliband, during the Saudi state visit this week. The prince also held talks with Brown.

The prime minister, who is concerned that the technological division between civilian and military nuclear use is starting to blur, has been struck by the potential of using supply quotas to limit weapons technology. The Bush Administration believes that Iran's stated aim of developing a civilian program is a smokescreen for development of a nuclear weapon.

The five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany are due to meet in London Friday to discuss a fresh round of sanctions against Iran over its failure to comply with previous U.N. resolutions. Britain is not optimistic that either Russia or China will agree to a third round of U.N.-sponsored sanctions, but believes the alternative of fresh E.U. sanctions is necessary. Germany, seen as one of the least enthusiastic supporters of fresh sanctions in the E.U., said it was willing to look at the issue in the middle of December.

Brown believes diplomatic and economic pressure is having an impact on the Iranian regime, but would like the E.U. to agree to tighten sanctions, in part to head off any faction in Washington, D.C., arguing for some kind of military assault. The prime minister has refused to publicly rule out military force against Iran.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries - Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - agree with the western assessment that Iran's nuclear energy program could lead to it acquiring atomic bombs. "We have proposed a solution, which is to create a consortium for all users of enriched uranium in the Middle East," Prince Saud told the Middle East Economic Digest.

Prince Saud said Iran was considering the offer, which involves building a plant in a neutral country such as Switzerland. "Any plant in the Middle East that needs enriched uranium would get its quota. I don't think other Arab states would refuse. Other Arab countries have expressed a desire to be part of the proposal."

Britain's Foreign Office said any proposal on the controlled supply of enriched uranium did not lift the responsibility on Tehran to comply with previous U.N. resolutions.


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