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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 11:50 GMT
Iran: Good cop/bad cop got results

By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

The agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over the control of the Iranian nuclear programme represents a success for tough diplomacy in which Europeans and Americans found themselves playing a good cop/bad cop routine.

View of Iranian nuclear facility.
Iran will be more closely watched

The Europeans, in the form of the UK, France and Germany, urged Iran to cooperate and offered technology and fuel to allow it develop nuclear power.

The Americans threatened Tehran with sanctions and beyond that declared that it would not accept an Iranian nuclear bomb. The threat of force was never explicit but it was certainly implicit.

Iran says it has no intention of producing a bomb.

In the event, it has been censured for not revealing work on the enrichment of uranium and has been warned that the IAEA will consider "all options" if it breaks the rules again or has not been truthful.

But Iran has escaped being reported to the Security Council, thereby avoiding possible sanctions, and has agreed to accept much more intrusive inspections (called an "additional protocol") in the future.

Tactics used

Gary Samore of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London said that the combined approach of the Americans and Europeans had a produced a "pretty effective formula."

"It gave Iran the incentive to be afraid of the US which wanted this in the Security Council and the opportunity of cooperating with the Europeans," he told News Online.

However, he gave a warning that while the crisis was over for now it was not over altogether.

"First, the IAEA Board is meeting next March and it will have to verify that Iran's explanations of its past activities are truthful.

"Second, Iran has to implement the additional protocol.

"And third and most important, is the question of Iran's future enrichment programme. The Europeans want Iran to stop enrichment completely and to accept fuel from Russia, which is building Iran's nuclear reactor. They have guaranteed that if Russia ever reneged, they would help Iran themselves."

The world is awash with enriched uranium and it is very cheap
Dr Gary Samore IISS
Iran has only announced the "suspension" of its enriching effort.

Most countries producing nuclear power buy enriched uranium (which is used as the fuel in a nuclear power reactor) from an outside source, though they are allowed to make it themselves.

Dr Samore said that Iran did not need to enrich uranium: "The world is awash with enriched uranium and it is very cheap. Russia has been degrading its weapons grade uranium and is offering it for nuclear power. The United States buys a lot of it.

"The only rationale many see for Iran to develop its own capability is that it one day might want to leave the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and make a bomb. That is the so-called breakout scenario." he said.

Israel watching

Iran argues that it has been let down over nuclear power before and cannot rely on any source which might be susceptible to American pressure in the future.

It first started building nuclear reactors in the 1970's under the Shah but that programme, run by the Germans, was abandoned after the Islamic revolution.

Iran says that it needs to diversify its energy generation despite its possession of oil and gas because it has a rapidly rising population.

Its assurances that it is not going to make a bomb have not convinced Israel.

The head of Israel's intelligence service Mossad said recently that Iran's nuclear programme represented the most severe threat to Israel.

The Prime Minister Mr Sharon is reported to have taken personal charge of a committee to monitor developments.

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