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Iranian Leader Promotes Nuclear Plans (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By FARNAZ FASSIHI BEIRUT, LEBANON 02/23/12) Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204778604577239432625050286.html?KEYWORDS=Israel
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U.S. and Europe Chastise Tehran for Blocking U.N. Inspections, as Khamenei Says ´No Obstacles´ Can Stop Program
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BEIRUT—Iran´s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic would move ahead with its nuclear program, despite growing international pressure.
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"Iran´s nuclear path must continue firmly and seriously, with the help of God and by ignoring propaganda," Mr. Khamenei told nuclear scientists and employees of Iran´s Atomic Energy Agency in a rare meeting at his residence. "Pressures, sanctions and assassinations will bear no fruit. No obstacles can stop Iran´s nuclear work." The nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes, he said.
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Mr. Khamenei´s defiant comments offered a window into the motives of the man who will ultimately decide whether Iran will compromise with the West over its nuclear program or continue on a path of international isolation.
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Although the event was televised, the camera didn´t show the faces of the audience, to protect the scientists from being identified and targeted. Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in the past two years, a period in which Israel has intensified covert actions against Tehran´s nuclear program, according to U.S. officials. Incidents including computer viruses and explosions have afflicted Iran´s nuclear program and security infrastructure.
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On Tuesday, inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog ended a visit to Iran, their second in three weeks, saying Tehran wasn´t fully cooperating. Iran denied the inspectors access to a military site south of Tehran, Parchin, the International Atomic Energy Agency said, and refused to discuss research that the IAEA believes could be related to a weapons program. Iran has denied it is developing nuclear weapons.
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Analysts say Mr. Khamenei´s comments, combined with the IAEA´s blunt assessment, will cast a shadow on any coming talks between Iran and the P5 + 1 group, which includes the five permanent U.N. Security Council members—the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia and China—and Germany.
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The IAEA had hoped to defuse the deepening international standoff with Iran amid reports that Israel is considering military strikes on Iran´s nuclear facilities.
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"Intensive efforts were made to reach a document facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues" with Iran, the IAEA said in a statement early Wednesday, but no agreement was reached.
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Iranian officials sought Tuesday to play down the conflict with the IAEA by describing the meetings as constructive. They also said Parchin isn´t a nuclear facility.
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Tensions between Iran and the West have escalated as the U.S. and Europe have imposed new sanctions on Iran in recent weeks.
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"Khamenei is in bunker mentality. He believes that transparency with the IAEA will only further incriminate Iran. Whenever talks take place, the U.S. and Iranian negotiating teams will be separated by a wooden table and an ocean of mistrust," said Karim Sadjadpour an Iran expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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The Obama administration and its European allies chastised Tehran on Wednesday for blocking the IAEA. At the same time, they said their governments remain open to resuming dialogue with Tehran on the nuclear question. Some still believe another round of talks will be held in the coming month, probably in Europe.
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Many Western officials view new talks not necessarily as a means to end the nuclear stand-off, but as a channel through which to reduce tensions with Iran. U.S. officials also believe that by engaging Tehran, Washington highlights Iran´s intransigence, and generates more international support for tougher sanctions against Iran down the road.
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A new IAEA report on Iran´s nuclear program is expected to be released Friday. The study is expected to again highlight the agency´s concerns that Tehran has been developing the technologies used in making nuclear weapons.
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U.S. officials increasingly worry that Iran´s senior leadership is split and thus unable to make any strategic decision to abandon its nuclear ambitions. These officials said Iran´s decision to first invite inspectors, and then bar them from any site visits, illustrated a disjointed policy-making apparatus in Tehran.
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"What we think this shows is how internally divided they are," said an Obama administration official. "They invite the inspectors in and then they don´t let them see anything? They created a PR disaster for themselves and that´s not something you do on purpose."
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Last week, Iran´s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, indicated in a letter to the EU that Iran was ready for talks with the West on its nuclear program. The U.S. and EU reacted with optimism, saying it could indicated a breakthrough in the bid to resume negotiations, which have been halted for over a year.
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It remains unclear whether Iran, hurt by the international sanctions, truly intends to negotiate or is buying time to advance its nuclear program in order to gain the capacity to build nuclear weapons.
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In addition to external pressures, the government faces unprecedented opposition from the Islamic Republic´s rank and file as well as a split within the government.
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Mr. Khamenei, sitting next to a table with framed photographs of the five nuclear scientists, didn´t mention the international inspectors or the IAEA comments.
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Iran isn´t pursuing a nuclear-weapons program because it would be "sinful," he said. He also lashed out at the West for its treatment of Iran. —Jay Solomon contributed to this article. (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 02/23/12)
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