Israel inches closer to compromise on Iran uranium enrichment, officials say (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Barak Ravid 05/21/12)
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With the second round of nuclear talks between Iran and the six major
powers due to begin in Tehran on Wednesday, senior Israeli sources
say Jerusalem may be more flexible about Iranian low-level uranium
enrichment than it is currently willing to let on.
Though Israel has been expressing zero flexibility regarding a
possible deal with Iran, Defense Minister Ehud Barak a few weeks ago
issued a written statement that Israel would consent to Iran´s
continuing enrichment of uranium to a low level of 3.5 percent, as
well as to allowing a few hundred kilograms of 3.5-percent enriched
uranium to remain in that country.
"Enrichment percentage" refers to the degree to which natural uranium
has been enriched with the U-235 isotope - an isotope which can
sustain a chain reaction of nuclear fission. Reactor-grade uranium is
enriched to about 3 to 4 percent, while weapons-grade uranium is 90
percent enriched. However, crude nuclear weapons can be built with
uranium enriched to as low as 20 percent.
A senior Israeli source said that Barak´s remarks, which were shared
in private conversations with U.S. officials, contradict the tough
line being presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has
demanded that Iran stop all uranium enrichment and give up any
enriched uranium it has in its possession.
More recently, Barak has publicly toed Netanyahu´s line, but the
assessment is that the things the defense minister said in his
statement represent the limited concession Israel is willing to make
to enable the P5 +1 powers - the United States, Russia, China,
France, Britain and Germany - to continue discussions with Iran.
It seems now that those countries and Iran are seeking an interim
agreement, under which Iran would stop enriching uranium to a level
of 20 percent. This would mean that the enrichment process at the
reinforced underground facility in Fordo, near Qom, would essentially
stop. It would also mean Iran would have to give up some 100
kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium it already has.
In return, the six powers would cease efforts to impose new sanctions
on Iran: While the European Union´s oil embargo will go into effect
on July 1 as scheduled, as will American sanctions against Iran´s
central bank - no additional limitations will be imposed. In
addition, Iran would be sent a shipment of nuclear fuel rods for its
A senior Israeli official said on Sunday that publicly, Israel will
continue to talk tough on Iran to make sure the six powers don´t rush
into an agreement with Tehran.
"We´re the indicator on the right," the official said. "We are aware
that the powers want to come to an agreement with Iran, which is why
we are warning against euphoria. A good atmosphere during the
negotiations with Iran is liable to be addictive."
Sources note that it is clear that as long as negotiations between
Iran and the six powers are continuing, the Israeli option of
attacking Iran´s nuclear facilities remains in abeyance. In such a
situation, Israel can do little except warn the P5 +1 against falling
into an Iranian honey trap.
At a press conference on Sunday with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary
Janet Napolitano, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel
still doesn´t see any willingness on Iran´s part to give up its
"From Iran´s perspective the talks are a deception and an effort to
buy time," Lieberman said. "I don´t think the international community
has any illusions about Iranian plans or Iran´s readiness to abandon
its nuclear military plans." (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 05/21/12)
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