Rouhani’s 2003 role in halting Iran’s nuclear program

François Nicoullaud, France’s ambassador to Tehran from 2001 to 2005, writes: As Hassan Rouhani prepares to become the next president of the Iranian Islamic Republic, it is worth recalling the leading role he played as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in late 2003, when the clandestine program run by the Revolutionary Guards to produce a nuclear weapon was halted.

The halt in the weaponization program — as distinct from the program for uranium enrichment, power production and civilian research — was acknowledged in November 2007 by American intelligence services in their National Intelligence Estimate, and confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency in November 2011 in a report from the director general, who wrote: “work on the AMAD Plan [i.e. the undeclared nuclear weaponization program] was stopped rather abruptly pursuant to a ‘halt order’ instruction issued in late 2003 by senior Iranian officials.”

Based on conversations that I had at the time, as French ambassador to Tehran, with high Iranian officials close to the matter, I firmly believe that Rouhani was the main actor in the process. Of course, Iranians could not admit to a foreigner that such a program ever existed, and I cannot name the officials I spoke to. But two conversations in particular remain vivid in my mind.

The first one took place a little after Rouhani became Iran’s top nuclear negotiator in October 2003 and had reached an agreement about the suspension of Iranian sensitive enrichment activities with the German, British and French foreign ministers during their joint visit to Tehran. [Continue reading…]

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