Among the reasons the Geneva talks on Iran's nuclear programme have had to be reconvened this week is France objected to the deal being closed-off with Iran earlier because of Teheran's contested plutonium production plant at Arak.
Whatever doubts the French have over Arak, they seem to be sanguine about Iran’s involvement in uranium enrichment, so much so that they are in industrial partnership with the Iranians in this technology, and have been for four decades since the agreement was initiated by the Shah in 1975.
Oddly, this deal never gets reported in the context of the Iran nuclear negotiations. Is there any good reason why not?
The origins of the deal are illustrative of the dangers of international nuclear collaboration. A joint-stock uranium enrichment Eurodif (European Gaseous Diffusion Uranium Enrichment ) Consortium was formed in 1973, with France, Belgium, Spain and Sweden the original shareholders.
In 1975 Sweden’s 10% share in Eurodif was sold to Iran. The French government subsidiary company Cogema (now Areva) and the then Iranian government established the spin-out Sofidif (Société Franco-Iranienne pour l'enrichissement de l'uranium par diffusion gazeuse ) with 60% and 40% shares, respectively. In turn, Sofidif acquired a 25% share in Eurodif, which gave Iran its 10% share of Eurodif.
The former Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, lent $1 billion (and another $180 million in 1977) for the construction of the Eurodif factory to have the right of buying 10% of the site’s production.
Although Iran's active involvement in Eurodif was halted following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran has retained its active involvement in Sofidif, headquartered in Rue La Fayette in Paris, to the present day. Its current annual report is audited by KPMG. Dr Ali Daee of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran was appointed Iran’s new Permanent Representative to Sofidef as recently as 25 September last year.
The hypocrisy of France, as a nuclear technology supplier to Iran, ganging up on its customer client with the other self-appointed permanent-5 members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, would be funny if it wasn't so serious.