ABU DHABI // Western powers must adopt a new approach with Iran if they want it to abandon uranium enrichment, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said yesterday.
Hans Blix, the head of the international panel of advisers on the UAE's nuclear energy programme, said Tehran was acting out of a perception of threat, and must be reassured when negotiations resume that it does not need a nuclear deterrent.
Iran's refusal to stop enriching uranium, which it says is for peaceful purposes and not nuclear weapons, has led to a breakdown in talks and a UN resolution extending economic sanctions.
The EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said talks could resume soon if Tehran were willing to "engage seriously in meaningful discussions".
EU leaders have warned that Iran faces a further tightening of sanctions should it not respond to international concerns over its nuclear activities.
"I think the talks that will resume should give Iran insurance that they will not be attacked from the outside under any circumstances," said Mr Blix, who was head of the IAEA from 1981 to 1997, and also led the UN team monitoring Iraq's weapons development programme. "They may be expecting a lot of economic squeezes, but not attacks. They do not need nuclear weapons to defend their territory."
Iran is believed to have plans to increase the number of its nuclear reactors in the coming decades. These ambitions are seen as unrealistic by experts, and Mr Blix believes domestic enrichment is not driven by economic considerations.
"I do not see that it is economically justified, they have only two power plants. South Korea has 20 plants and they import their enriched uranium and its more economical," he said.
His comments follow reports that the IAEA will soon release a dossier detailing the military dimensions of Iran's nuclear activities. Western diplomats have said the report will stop short of accusing Iran of building a bomb.
Mr Blix is equally unwilling to make this accusation. "I am not sure that they have decided," he said.