Iran Touts Nuclear Advance Ahead of U.S. Talks (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By JAY SOLOMON GENEVA, SWITZERLAND 12/06/10)
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GENEVA—As the U.S. and Iran prepare for Monday´s first diplomatic
meeting between the two sides in more than a year, Tehran announced
delivery of its first shipment of homemade "yellowcake" uranium—a
troubling sign for Western governments seeking to contain the
nation´s nuclear ambitions.
At the same time, significant differences have emerged over such
basics as the terms and substance of the discussions on Tehran´s
nuclear program set for Monday and Tuesday in Geneva.
Iran on Sunday announced it had delivered yellowcake, made from
uranium ore from its Gachin mine near the Persian Gulf, to a fuel-
conversion facility in the city of Isfahan. Yellowcake, a
concentrated form of uranium, is the key feedstock needed to produce
either fuel for a nuclear reactor, or the highly enriched uranium for
atomic weapons. Iran´s successful development of the capacity to make
its own yellowcake would make Tehran´s nuclear program less
susceptible to outside pressure.
The quality of the yellowcake in the delivery isn´t known. Nuclear
experts believe that Iran´s uranium deposits are too small and low-
grade to sustain a nuclear power program, though it is already
believed to have enough low-enriched uranium to produce atomic
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran´s Atomic Energy Organization, said the
delivery, marking the first time domestically produced yellowcake
would be used at a key nuclear plant, represented a major step
forward in its program. "This means that Iran has become self-
sufficient in the entire fuel cycle," he told Iranian state
television Sunday in Tehran.
"No matter how much effort they put into their sanctions...our
nuclear activities will proceed and they will witness greater
achievements in the future," Mr. Salehi said, adding that Iran´s
nuclear advances are only for peaceful purposes.
The announcement on the eve of talks echoed defiant tones struck by
other Iranian officials over the weekend, who stressed at forums in
the Persian Gulf and Europe that Tehran has a non-negotiable right to
produce nuclear fuel. For that reason, they said, the discussions in
Geneva should focus on more general issues, such as the structure of
the global non-proliferation system and the status of Israel´s
presumed nuclear-weapons program.
Senior Obama administration officials countered that any progress in
the Geneva negotiations could occur only if Iran addresses the
concerns about its nuclear-fuel production—in particular, its moves
to enrich uranium to levels closer to weapons grade. They also said
Tehran´s announcement of the yellowcake shipment to the conversion
facility only deepens the fears internationally that Iran´s goal is
to build nuclear weapons.
"Given that Iran´s own supply of uranium is not enough for a peaceful
nuclear energy program, this calls into further question Iran´s
intentions," said Mike Hammer, the spokesman for the White House´s
National Security Council. "The purpose of the...talks here in Geneva
tomorrow is to underscore the concern of the entire international
community in Iran´s actions."
Iran last month agreed to a meeting after a year of back and forth.
Mr. Hammer said the U.S. wasn´t surprised by Mr. Salehi´s
announcement of the yellowcake delivery to Isfahan. But U.S. and
United Nations officials have said in recent months that Iran´s
relatively small supplies of natural uranium ore, which is ground
into yellowcake, are inadequate to fuel the expansive nuclear-power
program Tehran says it is developing. However, this supply—along with
the yellowcake Iran imported from South Africa in the 1970s—is enough
for a small nuclear-weapons arsenal, according to these officials.
Leading the talks for the U.S. and the four other permanent members
of the United Nations Security Council—Russia, China, France and the
U.K.—plus Germany, is Catherine Ashton, the European Union´s foreign-
policy chief. The Iranian side will be headed by Tehran´s chief
nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili. The State Department´s No. 3
diplomat, William Burns, is representing the Obama administration.
Monday´s meeting will mark the first time Tehran has sat down with
these international powers since October 2009. At that time, the
Iranian government initially agreed to a key confidence-building
measure that would have seen Tehran ship two-thirds of its uranium
stockpile to third countries in exchange for energy and medical
The U.S. liked that proposal because it would have denied Iran enough
fissile material to build an atomic weapon. But Tehran backed away
from the deal amid political infighting between President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad and other Iranian political factions.
U.S. officials have said in recent weeks that they would like to re-
examine the fuel-swap proposal with Tehran. But they said that Iran
would need to ship out significantly more of its low-enriched uranium
stockpile to address the fears it might move rapidly to assemble a
nuclear bomb. During last year´s negotiations, Iran had 1,600
kilograms of low-enriched uranium, according to the U.N; today its
supply stands at more than 3,000 kilograms.
It´s estimated that Iran would need around 600 kilograms of low-
enriched uranium to make a bomb if it decided to enrich the material
further into weapons grade.
Iran has given conflicting signals in recent months about its
willingness to accept the nuclear fuel-swap proposal. Some Iranian
officials have said Iran would be open to buying more higher enriched
uranium from the international market to produce medical isotopes,
provided the fuel supply is guaranteed. But they have stressed U.S.
and European suppliers are unreliable.
Senior American and Iranian officials have squared off over the
nuclear issue in a number of different venues in recent days.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Iranian counterpart,
Manouchehr Mottaki, gave competing speeches at a regional security
conference in the Persian Gulf sheikhdom of Bahrain on Friday. Mrs.
Clinton stressed the U.S.´s desire for better relations, but said
that could come only after Tehran addressed the concerns over its
nuclear activities. Mr. Mottaki responded in his speech that
President Barack Obama´s policy towards Iran has proven no different
than George W. Bush´s.
Mrs. Clinton told reporters that she´d attempted to greet Mr. Mottaki
following a dinner Friday in Bahrain but that "he just turned away."
Iran´s foreign minister responded in a Saturday press conference that
he had acknowledged Washington´s chief diplomat, but had to quickly
turn to greet Jordan´s King Abdullah.
Iran has in recent days intensified its attacks on the U.N.´s nuclear
watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Mr. Jalili, the nuclear negotiator, and Heidar Moslehi, the head of
Iran´s intelligence ministry, both this weekend charged the IAEA with
colluding with Western spy agencies to provide information on
Tehran´s nuclear work. They also said the U.N. body provided
information to the West on two Iranian nuclear scientists who were
attacked last Monday in nearly simultaneous car bombings, one of whom
"Among the individuals the IAEA sends as so-called inspectors, there
are spies from foreign intelligence services. The IAEA must be held
responsible for this," Mr. Moslehi, told state television.
U.S. and U.N. officials fear Iran´s attacks on the IAEA could presage
Tehran limiting even further the agency´s activities inside Iran.
Earlier this year, Tehran kicked out two IAEA inspectors alleging
that they provided false information on the state of Iran´s nuclear
work. Iran has also denied the inspectors access to a heavy-water
reactor complex, and it has refused to answer the IAEA´s questions
about Tehran´s alleged efforts to develop military applications for
its nuclear program.
IAEA officials have declined to comment on Iran´s spying charges. The
U.S. has denied any role in the attack on the two Iranian nuclear
scientists. Write to Jay Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org (Copyright ©
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 12/06/10)
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