Uranium enrichment ´key focus´ of Iran talks (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Simon Sturdee 04/13/12)
AFP} Agence France Presse
AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-Top
Persuading Iran to scale back its enrichment of uranium, which can be
used for peaceful purposes but also for nuclear weapons, will be the
key aim of world powers in upcoming talks, analysts say.
The US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany may also press
Tehran, at the meeting in Istanbul on Saturday, to give the UN
nuclear watchdog more access to its facilities and answer accusations
of a covert weapons programme.
Uranium enrichment is key because it is the "most pressing priority
in terms of Iran´s ability to make a weapon quickly if it decided to
do so," Peter Crail, analyst at the Arms Control Association think-
tank in Washington, told AFP.
At present Iran has some 3,000 kilos (6,600 pounds) of low-enriched
uranium (LEU), of 3.5-percent purity, but of greater concern is the
country´s rapidly expanding capacity to enrich to 20 percent at its
virtually impregnable Fordo site.
Western powers fear that if Iran were to take the decision to develop
the bomb, it could relatively quickly reconfigure Fordo´s centrifuges
to enrich to weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.
The talks between Iran and the six world powers this weekend will be
the first such discussions since a similar meeting broke up
inconclusively more than a year ago.
The immediate aim of the upcoming talks is to "build confidence" that
Iran will not be able to make this "quick sprint", said Mark
Fitzpatrick from the International Institute for Strategic Studies in
Iran says that 20-percent uranium is to make fuel plates for the
Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) in order to produce medical isotopes
used to diagnose cancers and other diseases.
One option at the upcoming talks would be a revival of previous
attempts at a deal whereby other countries supply fuel for the TRR in
return for Iran suspending 20-percent enrichment and sending some of
its stockpiles abroad.
But for Mark Hibbs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
this would be a "non-starter" for Iran without a "roadmap" for
sanctions to be loosened and Tehran being allowed to retain its
peaceful nuclear activities.
Fitzpatrick believes that another possible confidence-building
measure might be "technical measures" that make it more difficult for
Iran to convert its centrifuges at Fordo or at Natanz, another site,
to 90-percent production.
"The IAEA should also be allowed to detect enrichment levels at Fordo
and Natanz on a real-time basis, without only having to rely on
sending environmental samples back to Austria for time-consuming
analysis," he said.
Another concession could be for Iran to implement the so-
called "additional protocol" of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty
that Iran, as a NPT signatory, briefly adhered to but dropped in
2006, analysts said.
This would give the IAEA the right to access sites that at present
are off-limits and help soothe one of the biggest fears about Iran´s
nuclear programme, namely that it has secret sites -- as Fordo was
The IAEA itself regularly says in its quarterly reports that since
Iran is "not providing the necessary cooperation" it is "unable to
provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear
material and activities."
Last but not least, analysts said, the P5+1 powers may press that
Iran has to provide answers to a major IAEA report in November that
heightened suspicions over Tehran´s activities.
That report cited "overall, credible" evidence from different sources
that at least until the end of 2003, and possibly since, Tehran
carried out "activities ... relevant to the development of a nuclear
So far, Iran has dismissed out of hand -- most recently in two high-
level IAEA visits in late January and February -- all the allegations
contained in the report, saying the findings were based on evidence
fabricated by its enemies.
Most notably, Iran has denied the IAEA access to the Parchin military
base near Tehran where the agency´s report said it may have tested
explosives for warhead research in a large metal container.
Hibbs also said that the West should steer clear of raising other
issues in the talks such as human rights.
"Iran may conclude that non-nuclear issues are intended by the West
to be a tool to destabilise and destroy the Islamic republic, and
then not negotiate," the analyst told AFP. (Copyright © 2012 Agence
France Presse. 04/13/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY