Israel accepts focus on curbing Iran´s purer atom fuel (REUTERS) By Dan Williams JERSALEM, ISRAEL 04/08/12 5:38am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Israel has signaled it would accept, as a first priority,
world powers focusing on persuading Iran to stop higher-level uranium
enrichment when they resume stalled nuclear negotiations this week
Israel, which has threatened last-resort attacks on its arch-foe´s
nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails, demanded last month that any
negotiated resolution should end all uranium enrichment, high and low
level, and remove all fuel already stockpiled by Iran.
But Western diplomats have said the six powers - the United States,
Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany - that are due to open new
talks with Iran on Friday would first tackle its uranium refinement
to a fissile concentration of 20 percent rather than its more
abundant 3.5 percent-pure fuel. The two sides have not yet agreed
where the talks will take place.
The 20 percent enriched uranium would be far easier to enrich to bomb-
grade 90 percent purity, though Iran denies having such designs,
saying it is only seeking electrical energy and medical isotopes.
"We told our American friends, as well as the Europeans, that we
would have expected the threshold for successful negotiations to be
clear, namely that the P5+1 will demand clearly that - no more
enrichment to 20 percent," Barak said in an interview with CNN´s
Fareed Zakaria GPS to be aired on Sunday.
Iran´s stocks of 20 percent-pure uranium should be removed "to a
neighboring, trusted country", Barak said, according to an advance
transcript of the interview.
Iran says it has a sovereign right to peaceful nuclear technology and
has repeatedly rejected U.N. resolutions calling for a suspension of
all uranium enrichment.
But it has at times appeared more flexible regarding 20 percent
enrichment, which it began in early 2010, and some experts say that
initially getting Iran to stop this higher-grade work could open a
way to ease the deadlock.
Asked about Barak´s comments to CNN, another Israeli official
confirmed that the Netanyahu government was focusing lobbying efforts
on Iran´s 20-percent pure uranium but said the long-term goal
remained the ending all of its enrichment work.
"The understanding that has emerged in our contacts with the powers
is that there should be a staggered approach," the official told
Reuters on condition of anonymity.
COUNTDOWN ON ISRAELI DECISION
Western diplomats have similarly stressed that an initial focus on 20
percent enrichment should not be seen as "legitimizing" lower-level
work as the U.N. Security Council has demanded a full suspension.
Iran has enough 3.5 and 20 percent-enriched uranium for around four
bombs if refined further, Western experts say.
Barak´s remarks dovetailed with what the New York Times said on
Saturday would be submitted to Iran by the United States and other
Western nations in the upcoming talks.
According to the report, the world powers, which have ramped up
sanctions against Iran, also plan to press it to close and ultimately
dismantle a recently completed enrichment bunker in a mountain near
Qom - another demand leveled by the Israelis.
Israel´s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu presented U.S. President Barack Obama last month with
propositions for an Iran deal that included allowing limited
operations at its main enrichment facility at Natanz.
Netanyahu´s office had no comment on the Yedioth report.
Many analysts believe it may be unrealistic to demand that Iran
suspend all enrichment as its leaders have invested so much national
and personal prestige in the project.
In return for allowing limited, low-level enrichment, those analysts
argue, Iran would need to accept much more intrusive U.N. inspections
to make sure there is no military diversion.
Widely assumed to have the Middle East´s only atomic arsenal, Israel
considers a nuclear-armed Iran would be a mortal threat.
"We don´t have to make a decision next week, and we cannot wait
years, though," Barak said in the CNN interview when asked about the
prospect of an Israeli pre-emptive attack. "We don´t have any
decision about what to do or a date for (a) decision."
He dismissed speculation that Israel might settle for a Cold War-
style nuclear deterrence with the Iranians if they get the bomb.
"No mutually assured destruction kind of situation ... will serve as
a modifier or stabilizer in this case, because we are not continents,
and Israel is not either the United States or the Soviet Union,"
(This has been refiled to clarify in first paragraph talks due this
week) (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Will Waterman) (© Thomson
Reuters 2012. 04/08/12)
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