Israel, the U.S. and the Arab World
October 31, 2009
Senior Iranian lawmakers rejected on Saturday a U.N.-backed plan to ship much of the country's uranium abroad for further enrichment, raising further doubts about the likelihood Tehran will finally approve the deal.
The UN-brokered plan requires Iran to send 1.2 tons (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium — around 70 percent of its stockpile — to Russia in one batch by the end of the year, easing concerns the material would be used for a bomb.
After further enrichment in Russia, France would convert the uranium into fuel rods that would be returned to Iran for use in a reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.
Iran has indicated that it may agree to send only "part" of its stockpile in several shipments. Should the talks fail to help Iran obtain the fuel from abroad, Iran has threatened to enrich uranium to the higher level needed to power the research reactor itself domestically.
The Tehran reactor needs uranium enriched to about 20 percent, higher than the 3.5 percent-enriched uranium Iran is producing for a nuclear power plant it plans to build in southwestern Iran. Enriching uranium to even higher levels can produce weapons-grade materials.
"We are totally opposed to the proposal to send 3.5 percent enriched uranium in return for 20 percent enriched fuel," senior lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying.Boroujerdi, who heads the parliament's National Security Committee, said the priority for Iran was to buy nuclear fuel and hold on to its own uranium. He also said there was no guarantee that Russia or France will keep to the deal and supply nuclear fuel to Iran if Tehran ships them its enriched uranium.
"The preferred option is to buy fuel ... there is no guarantee that they will give us fuel ... in return for enriched uranium. We can't trust the West," ISNA quoted Boroujerdi as saying.Kazem Jalali, another senior lawmaker, said Iran wants nuclear fuel first before agreeing to ship its enriched uranium stocks to Russia and France even if it decides to strike a deal.
"They need to deliver nuclear fuel to Iran first ... the West is not trustworthy," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.Jalali said Iran needs fuel and putting conditions to deliver it for the research reactor is unacceptable.
"Countries possessing fuel are required, under international rules, to provide fuel for such reactors. Putting conditions is basically wrong," he said.Jalali said these conditions for the fuel was teaching Iran new lessons.
"Western approach toward Iran's demand for fuel is only straightening Iran's resolve to continue its peaceful nuclear program," he added.The lawmaker said France has reneged on previous agreements and that Tehran doesn't trust Paris.
He said Iran holds a 10 percent share in a Eurodif nuclear plant in France purchased more then three decades earlier but is not allowed to get a gram of the uranium it produces as an example that Iran can't trust the West.
Tehran says it has paid for 50 tons of UF-6 gas, which can be turned into enriched uranium, in Eurodif's plant but has not been allowed to use it.
"Iran is a shareholder in Eurodif but doesn't enjoy its rights. This shows the French are not reliable," Jalali said.Areva, the state-run French nuclear company, has described Iran as a "sleeping partner" in Eurodif.
The U.S. and its allies have been pushing the U.N.-backed agreement as a way to ease their concerns that Iran is using its nuclear program as a way to covertly develop weapons capability.
October 30, 2009
The United States warned on Friday that Iran did not have unlimited time to accept a UN-drafted deal with global powers on its nuclear program, as reports said Tehran wanted more talks on the offer.
Washington increased the pressure after waiting a week for Iran's response to the package, which proposes shipping out low-enriched uranium (LEU) from Iran to be converted into fuel for a Tehran reactor.
"The president's time is not unlimited, this was not about talking for the sake of talking," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Thursday it has received an "initial response" from Iran to the deal, but the Iranian news service IRNA said that was not Tehran's "answer" to the UN-backed plan.
"This was about reaching an agreement that just a few weeks ago seemed to be something that the Iranians wanted," Gibbs said.
IRNA also reported, quoting an unnamed informed source, that the Islamic Republic was "ready" to have more negotiations in the reactor project.
The deal would have the affect of taking substantial uranium supplies out of Iran and leaving the Islamic Republic without sufficient material to make a nuclear weapon, at least from stockpiles known to the international community.
Iran denies western claims that it is bent on producing nuclear weapons, but the crisis escalated in September, when it and the United States revealed the existence of a previously unexposed nuclear plant at Qom.
From the US point of view, the deal would give Washington and its allies time to negotiate a more far-reaching agreement with Iran, and defuse the crisis.
Amid growing international impatience, IRNA indicated Tehran's initial message to the IAEA was "not an answer to the draft agreement."
Iran would state its full position after more negotiations, the agency said.
But IRNA reported that Iran was expected to insist it will hand over its LEU at the same time it receives the fuel for the Tehran reactor. The agency did not elaborate.
Iran had been initially due to give its response to the deal by October 23.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday the United States was still trying to determine the extent of Iran's initial response to the IAEA.
"We are working to determine exactly what they are willing to do, whether this was an initial response that is an end response or whether it's the beginning of getting to where we expect them to end up," she told CNN.The plan calls for Iran to export to Russia more than 2,640 pounds (1,200 kilos) of its 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium (LEU) for refining up to 20 percent to fuel a Tehran reactor that makes medical isotopes.
France would then fashion the material into fuel rods for the reactor.
October 31, 2009
Mounting opposition leaves only two leaders in favor of the UN-brokered plan for Iran to send most of its enriched uranium to Russia and France for further processing:
US President Barack Obama and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who Friday praised the proposal "to have Iran withdraw its enriched uranium, or a good portion of it, outside Iran as a positive first step." He commended the US president's efforts to deal with Iran's nuclear program.But Saturday, European leaders struck the opposite note. In Vienna, European officials called the new Iranian ultimatum for a balance between sending uranium abroad and receiving a fresh supply as "unacceptable."
In Brussels, European leaders began drafting a communiqué expressing "grave concern" over Iran's nuclear enrichment activities and persistent failure to meet its international obligations.
The "counter-proposal" incorporating this ultimatum, which was conveyed by Iran's nuclear negotiator to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna Friday, cancels out the whole point of the plan offered, to reduce the level of uranium stocks usable by Iran for making a nuclear bomb. Tehran also called for more negotiations before Tehran delivered its final response.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, rotating presidency of the European Union, told AP that Iran's approach of "back-and-forth talks" were reminiscent of its "same old tricks."
Saturday, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a veiled warning:
"We hope the negotiations continue and evil powers don't indulge in mischief because the Zionist regime and other domineering powers are unhappy with the talks," he said in an Iranian state TV interview: "Today, Westerners know that without engaging Iran, they cannot rule the world, because Iran… rules world public opinion."Within hours, fellow hardliners in Tehran chipped in. Deputy parliament speaker Aleddin Boroujerdi said the second time this week:
"We are completely opposed to the proposals. We have deep mistrust of Westerners."Qazem Jalili, a member of the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs and security committee (who is related to Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili) dismissed the world powers' proposal as "completely out of the question."
Netanyahu's words of praise for president Obama when he met Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell Friday followed an informal message from Washington asking Israel's political, military and intelligence spokesmen to align their conduct and statements on the Iran issue with the UK, France and Germany.
The Israeli prime minister made no reference to Iran's negative response to the compromise it was offered in the framework of Obama's engagement policy. Nor did he indicate where this left Israel.
That Iran's counter-proposal was a resounding "no" to an initiative backed by the world's powers and the UN was far from clear in secretary of state Hillary Clinton's tortuous remarks Friday:
"We are working to determine exactly what they are willing to do, whether this was an initial response that is an end response or the beginning of getting to where we expect them to end up," she said, urging: "The process must play out."She may be in denial, but Tehran's rebuff will certainly play out in Obama's other diplomatic initiatives.
After being badly mauled in Pakistan over US drone attacks on Taliban bastions and US policy in general, Clinton arrives in Jerusalem Saturday, Oct. 31, to administer yet another push for getting Israel-Palestinian peace talks restarted.
When he met her earlier in Abu Dhabi, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made it clear that he stood by his precondition for talks: Israel must halt settlement construction on the West Bank and Jerusalem. Netanyahu, whom she meets Saturday night, will probably agree to negotiations without preconditions.