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PV Vivekanand: World’s eyes are on Istanbul
April 12, 2012
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The scheduled April 14 Istanbul meeting on Iran’s nuclear programme is touted as the last chance for Tehran to avoid military action against its atomic plants. Ahead of the meeting, Tehran has already rejected Western demands for it to suspend enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent and close the Fordow nuclear plant near Qom.

At the meeting, Iran is expected to be formally presented a “compromise” proposal that will allow it to keep 1,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium up to 3.5 per cent and stock 1,000 kilogrammes of the same grade uranium. 

In return, Iran is supposed to give up 20 per cent uranium enrichment but could keep a small amount of the same grade uranium for medical purposes and close down the Fordow facility.

Iran has enough 3.5 and 20 per-cent-enriched uranium for around four bombs if the material is refined further to 90-per-cent purity, according to Western experts.

The “compromise” is said to have been worked out by the administration of US President Barack Obama and endorsed by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The so-called “Formula of 1,000” is described as their “last concession” and as the bottom line in any dealing with Iran before Israel/US military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Russia and China are reported to have accepted the deal but they oppose military action against Iran. If anything, Russia is said to be working on ensuring that none of the ex-Soviet bloc countries in Central Asia neighbouring Iran help the US or Israel mount attacks against Iran.

Reports in the Israeli press say that Obama has already sent the proposal to the Iranian leadership through a “secret channel” ahead of the Istanbul meeting, where the so-called P5+1 - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany - will meet Iran.

Israel, which has been pressing for a total end to all enrichment and has threatened attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails, appears to have accepted that giving priority to

stopping 20-per-cent enrichment is the best immediate course. Israel’s strategy is to remove all ground for the US to reject military action against Iran.

Tehran is playing up to the Israeli hand. An Iranian official has already declared that it rejects the  demand that Iran suspend enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent and close the Fordow plant.

“We see no justification for such a request from the P5+1,” the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, said.

Iranian leaders have given no indication that they are ready for “concessions.”

If anything, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned Western powers against blocking his country’s scientific progress.

“The nuclear industry is like a locomotive that can carry other industries along with it,” he said, on the occasion of Iran’s annual  nuclear day. “It is like the space industry that has raised tens of sub-industries under it and it is clear that we must continue on this path,” the Iranian state news agency quoted him as saying.

“You are blind if you think you can block scientific growth in Iran by martyring Iranian scientists,” he said. He was referring to the killing of four Iranian scientists since 2010. “Don’t think you can stop this roaring river, and know that if you assassinate one scientist, hundreds and thousands will take his place.”

Iran is expected to counter the West with demands of its own. These include, according to a report in Israel’s online media:

- Clearance for the new system about to be activated for converting 3.5 enriched uranium to nuclear fuel rods in the first stage and nuclear plates in the second. Producing 20 per cent uranium from nuclear plates is relatively fast, efficient and cheap.

- Permission for homemade production of nuclear fuel rods for the heavy water plant under construction at Arak. This would provide Tehran with the option of plutonium in addition to enriched uranium for making weapons.

Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr is now operating at 75 per cent capacity under the management of the Russian engineers who built it. Tehran wants Iranian engineers to take over the reactor’s management in full in seven months.

The US is betting on the tightening sanctions to pressure Iran into halting its nuclear programme. Tehran is equally determined not to give in.

Israel, which has been meeting US refusal of support for military action against Iran, appears to have endorsed the new P+5 approach in the belief that Tehran will not accept the demands and will deprive Obama of any ground to block Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear sites.

At the same time, the reported existence of a Washington-Tehran “secret channel” is worrying for Israel because it indicates that the Obama administration is no longer Israel-specific in the Iranian context and could exercise own options. That is something Israel is determined not to allow to happen, and anything is possible when the Jewish state goes on the offensive.

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