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U.S. Weighs Letting Iran Keep Nuclear-Enrichment Facilities


May 21, 2006
United States
GENEVA—The Obama administration is weighing possible solutions to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program that include provisions at odds with key Middle Eastern allies: allowing Tehran the right to maintain uranium-enrichment facilities on its soil.

The administration stance, which President Barack Obama has hinted at broadly in recent weeks, comes as international negotiations aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear work resume Tuesday in Geneva.

Iran's new government says it wants to continue enriching uranium for civilian uses, and over the weekend declared it wouldn't ship nuclear materials out of the country.

But key U.S. allies in the region, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, insist that Tehran should be denied any facilities to either enrich uranium or produce weapons-grade plutonium because of the potential for military uses, according to U.S. and Arab officials.

Members of Congress also are pressuring the White House to seek a complete dismantling of Iran's centrifuge machines. A group of 10 Republican and Democratic lawmakers wrote Mr. Obama on Friday to urge an increase in sanctions on Iran until it agrees to a complete enrichment freeze. U.N. resolutions call for Iran to stop enrichment until it addresses international concerns over any military dimension to its program.
"Iran's first confidence-building action should be…immediate suspension of all enrichment activity," said the letter, which was released Monday by the office of Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Mr. Obama has left the U.S. position on the issue vague, repeatedly saying in recent weeks, including during his United Nations General Assembly speech, that Iran has the right to "access" peaceful nuclear energy.

When asked Monday on the eve of the talks whether the administration is willing to accede to Tehran's chief demand, a U.S. negotiator was similarly noncommittal. "We are prepared to talk about what President Obama said in his address at the U.N. General Assembly, and that is that he respects the rights of the Iranian people to access a peaceful nuclear program," the senior U.S. official said. "What that is is a matter of discussion."

U.S. officials, Western allies and Iranian leaders arrived in Geneva Monday voicing cautious optimism about the first round of talks overseen by Iranian President Hasan Rouhani's new government. The talks, the latest since negotiations in April, include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, a diplomatic bloc known as the P5+1.

American and Iranian officials hope the talks build on a growing diplomatic rapprochement. Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani spoke for 15 minutes by phone last month, the first conversation between American and Iranian presidents in more than 15 years.

"We hope we can begin translating the positive tone in New York to more specific actions," said the senior U.S. official.

The U.S. delegation in Geneva, headed by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, includes State and Treasury department officials with expertise on the economic sanctions imposed on Iran over the past decade.

Tehran is demanding a significant rollback in the U.S.-led sanctions campaign in exchange for limits on its nuclear work and has set out tough positions heading into the talks.

Iran, however, appeared to rule out over the weekend one of the West's primary aims in the negotiations: removing or safeguarding the country's stockpile of 20% enriched uranium.

Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, told Iran's state media on Sunday that "the shipping of materials out of the country is our red line."

Shipping out or safeguarding the materials is a key demand of the Obama administration and its European allies. U.S. officials believe such steps would prevent Tehran from a reaching a "breakout" capability for producing weapons-grade fuel.

Iranian officials have said they would present a "road map" for achieving an agreement to address Western fears that Tehran is seeking atomic weapons while allowing Iran to maintain a civilian-nuclear capacity.

"I hope that we can agree on a road map for arriving at an agreement by Wednesday," Iran's foreign minister and chief negotiator, Javad Zarif, wrote on his Facebook page late Sunday.

Western diplomats briefed on the Iranian road map said it is expected to include an offer to freeze Tehran's production of near-weapons grade fuel, which is uranium enriched to 20% purity.

Mr. Zarif and other Iranians officials have also said Iran is prepared to allow more intrusive inspections of its nuclear installations by the U.N.'s watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran is also expected to offer to limit the number of centrifuges operating at uranium-enrichment facilities in the cities of Natanz and Qom. Members of the P5+1 held discussions on Monday to prepare for the formal launch of talks on Tuesday and Wednesday. Mr. Zarif met for dinner Monday with Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, who leads the P5+1 negotiating team.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's chief negotiator at the talks, said he was hopeful for progress this week. "There are reasons to expect movement on both sides," he told The Wall Street Journal. "We are encouraged by what we have heard from the Iranians—of course not without problems. But as far as I understand, their foreign minister and the team really are of a mood to try to begin for some progress." Mr. Ryabkov said he expected a concrete plan from the Iranians when talks formally start Tuesday and held out hope of a breakthrough.

Mr. Ryabkov said he expected a concrete plan from the Iranians when talks formally start Tuesday and held out hope of a breakthrough.

"We keep fingers crossed," he said. "We will work for it."
U.S. Weighs Letting Iran Keep Nuclear-Enrichment Facilities - WSJ.com

Yzd Khalifa

Mar 24, 2013
Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
Great. Everything works according to the plan. Let Iran have nuclear weapons, BiBi won't like it but I'm afraid it is too little too late.

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