Solana Terms Iran Fundamental to Nabucco Project

A00384991.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- The EU foreign policy chief has described Iran as fundamental to the Nabucco gas pipeline to Europe from the Middle East and Central Asia.

Javier Solana said on Sunday the nuclear issue was the most important aspect of the European Union (EU) relations with Iran but it did not mean that other areas of cooperation should be neglected, Itar-Tas news agency reported.

Nabucco is planned to be a 3,300-kilometer pipeline running from the Caspian Sea via Turkey and the Balkan states to Austria.

The project, supported by the EU, is estimated to cost about seven billion Euros, but it is still unclear whether the pipeline can be filled with the necessary amount of natural gas. The EU is trying to engage Iran and Iraq’s gas-fields in the project as well.

The pipeline is expected to transport some 31 billion cubic meters a year of natural gas to the EU from the Middle East and Asia to reduce the bloc’s reliance on Russian supplies.

The UN has imposed a third round of sanctions against Iran’s uranium enrichment, which Tehran says is solely intended to generate electricity.

The sanctions, imposed under US pressure, are aimed at overshadowing Iran’s economic ties with other countries.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in early March – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East last month has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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