US gives Iran ´last chance´ warning over shutting down nuclear facility (INDEPENDENT UK) GUY ADAMS 04/09/12)
INDEPENDENT UK Articles-Index-Top
Obama demands concessions as crucial talks begin in Istanbul later
Iran must immediately close a large nuclear facility built underneath
a mountain if it is to take what President Obama has called a "last
chance" to resolve its escalating dispute with the West via diplomacy.
Other "near term" concessions which must be met in the early stages
of talks to avoid a potential military conflict, include the
suspension of higher level uranium enrichment, and the surrender by
Tehran of existing stockpiles of the fuel, senior US officials said
The demands were outlined as Iranian state TV announced that crucial
negotiations over its disputed nuclear programme will begin in
Istanbul on Friday, allaying fears that disagreements over the venue
would derail the important and long-scheduled talks.
US diplomats, who will join counterparts from the UK, China, Russia,
France and Germany, at the bargaining table, told reporters that they
will insist on Iran´s leadership giving up the Fordow enrichment
plant, which is just outside the Shia holy city of Qom.
The facility is buried deep in a mountain, apparently to protect
against air strikes, and is at the centre of Israeli fears that the
country´s military leadership is secretly developing weapons that
could mount a long-range strike across international borders.
A senior US official told The New York Times that the White House
has "no idea how the Iranians will react" to the demands,
and "probably won´t know after the first meeting".
But he said that more serious talks cannot proceed unless they are
met. Another US source told Reuters that the country must also export
its entire stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 per cent purity if
they are to stave off potential military action, saying, "20 per cent
and closing Fordow are near-term priorities" for the Obama
The negotiations are hugely delicate, both on the international stage
and in the US, where in the run-up to November´s election, President
Obama is anxious to challenge Republican claims that he has
been "soft" on Iran.
Many of Mr Obama´s predecessors have taken a gung-ho approach to
foreign affairs prior to their re-election battles, perhaps banking
on the theory that the patriotic fervour of an America at war is more
likely to give its incumbent President a second term.
The current debate over Iran isn´t quite so straightforward, though.
Firstly, there is no guarantee that the US electorate would back
intervention there, given the cost and mixed outcome of their
country´s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Secondly, an unpredictable conflict in the Middle East could cause
oil prices to spiral, threatening America´s economic recovery and
directly impacting the financial resources of voters, who are already
voicing disquiet at fuel costs that are approaching record levels.
With this in mind, the White House hopes to persuade its allies that
a mixture of crushing sanctions and diplomacy can be more effective
than intervention. It has repeatedly pressed Israel to hold off pre-
emptive military strikes until sanctions are proven to have failed.
US intelligence agencies are convinced that Iran suspended its
nuclear weapons programme in 2003. Recent surveillance operations,
particularly by drones, have failed to provide any evidence that such
operations have actually recommenced.
Iran, for its part, insists that the nuclear programme is designed
for power generation and medical and scientific research. It has
repeatedly rejected calls by the UN Security Council to suspend
On paper, Iran´s government may in any case find it tricky to give in
to US demands to close Fordow. After recent domestic developments,
they face growing threats to their powerbase, so are anxious to
retain the appearance of political strength. (©independent.co.uk
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY