Entries in nuclear program (10)


Looking to Calm Fears, Iran Nuclear Talks Resume

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- Iranian negotiators are sitting down Saturday with officials from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council as well as Germany for the first talks about Iran’s nuclear program since last January. The talks come as the West has imposed painful sanctions on the Iranian economy as they try to avert an Israeli military strike, whose leaders view a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.

Iran has signaled it may be willing to make concessions in Saturday’s so-called P5+1 – the United States, Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany – talks, but major progress is not expected.

“Iranian representatives will attend the talks with new initiatives,” Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili said before the talks, according to state IRNA news agency. “We are ready to hold successful and progressive talks on cooperation.”

Of particular concern to the United States and Europe are Iran’s new enrichment facility at Fordow, buried deep in a mountain, and Iran’s enrichment of uranium up to 20 percent, just a few steps away from weapons-grade which is 90 percent.

Last weekend, the head of Iran’s nuclear program signaled it may be willing to drop enrichment to a lower level needed for power once it has enough 20 percent-enriched uranium stocked for its research reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

“I think nobody expects to resolve all differences in one meeting,” deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters on Air Force One on Friday. “What we want is a positive environment where the Iranian government demonstrates its seriousness and its commitment to pursuing serious negotiations with the P5+1.”

“We want to begin with a negotiation that can address our concerns about their nuclear program and we want that negotiation to move forward with a sense of urgency.”

Iran has long insisted it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, a claim not believed by the U.S. and Israel, which is the only nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has even issued a fatwa – a religious edict – against pursuing nuclear weapons. In a Washington Post op-ed on Friday, Iran’s foreign minister reiterated their peaceful intentions and blamed mistrust on the current atmosphere.

“To solve the nuclear issue, the scope of the upcoming talks between Iran and the P5+1 must be comprehensive,” Ali Akbar Salehi wrote. “The concerns of all sides must be addressed. Complex matters that have been left unaddressed for decades cannot be solved overnight.”

 “We want them to demonstrate, clearly, in the actions they propose that they have truly abandoned any nuclear weapons ambition,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.

“Of course, in a negotiation, we understand that the Iranians will be asking for assurances or actions from us and we will certainly take those under consideration.”

Iran has bristled at what they called the West’s “pre-conditions” before the talks, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying Thursday that “the Iranian nation is standing firm on its fundamental rights and under the harshest pressure will not retreat an iota from its undeniable right.”

Israeli talk of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities has fueled strong American and European sanctions against Iran. But so far there has been no visible impact on Iran’s nuclear program. The Israeli leadership has warned that the window before Iran reaches a “zone of immunity” – when a military nuclear program cannot be stopped – is rapidly approaching and says the talks are a stalling tactic.

A compromise in Turkey, including inspections of nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, could see the West relax its sanctions on Iranian financial institutions and its oil industry.

Iran has said that if Saturday’s talks are productive, a second round could take place next month in Baghdad.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Signals Possible Nuclear Compromise

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran’s top nuclear official has signaled that Iran could compromise on uranium enrichment by eventually only enriching to the low level needed for power.

Fereidoon Abbasi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, told state television on Sunday that Iran doesn’t need uranium enriched above the 20 percent level needed for the Tehran research reactor, which produces medical isotopes.  Once there’s enough supply, he said, enrichment could be dropped to the 3.5 percent level needed for nuclear power (Weapons-grade uranium is more than 90 percent enriched).

“Based on our needs and once the required fuel is obtained, we will decrease the production and we may even totally shift it to the 3.5 percent,” Abbasi said, according to Iran’s Press TV.

“We are going to produce and store [20 percent enriched uranium] to some extent in order to provide fuel for Tehran’s [research] reactor for a few years or to predict fuel needs of another research reactor,” he said.

The comments come days before Iran begins a new round of talks on Saturday in Istanbul with the so-called P5+1, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.  The last round of talks fell apart in January 2011.  Since then, the United States and European Union have imposed strict economic sanctions and an oil embargo on Iran.

The P5+1 nations are expected to ask for Iran to shut down the Fordow enrichment facility buried deep under a mountain as well as to stop production and ship out uranium enriched to 20 percent, according to a report in The New York Times.

But comments Monday by Iran’s foreign minister raised doubts over any concessions.

“Setting conditions before the meeting means drawing conclusions, which is completely meaningless and none of the parties will accept conditions set before the talks,” Ali Akbar Salehi said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Wants Renewed Talks with World Powers to Take Place in Baghdad

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran's state TV said Tuesday that Iraq is willing to host talks between six world powers and Tehran regarding the long-controversial Iranian nuclear program.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already named Istanbul, Turkey, as the venue for the renewed discussions on April 13 that would involve Iran and the five permanent members of the United Security Council plus Germany, otherwise known as the G5+1.

However, Iran wants a friendlier setting for the talks, suggesting the capitals of Iraq, Syria or Lebanon instead.

According to Iran's IRIB TV website, an informed Iraqi source claims that his nation is offering Baghdad as the site for the stalled talks that broke down more than a year ago as the G5+1 demands Iran suspend the process of uranium enrichment, a major step in creating nuclear weapons.

Iran maintains its program is for peaceful purposes, namely, generating electricity -- a claim the U.S. and the West doubt since Iran is one of the biggest oil producers in the world.

The Iraqi source told Iran's state TV that the United States, Britain, France and Germany have apparently welcomed Iraq's offer while there was no word from either Russia or China.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israelis Suspect Obama Media Leaks to Prevent Strike on Iran

Alex Wong/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Two reports Thursday about Iran’s nuclear program and the possibility of an Israeli military strike have analysts in Israel accusing the Obama administration of leaking information to pressure Israel not to bomb Iran and for Iran to reach a compromise in upcoming nuclear talks.

The first report in Foreign Policy quotes anonymous American officials saying that Israel has been given access to airbases by Iran’s northern neighbor Azerbaijan from which Israel could launch airstrikes or at least drones and search-and-rescue aircraft.

The second report from Bloomberg, based on a leaked congressional report, said that Iran’s nuclear facilities are so dispersed that it is “unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be…” A strike could delay Iran as little as six months, a former official told the researchers.

“It seems like a big campaign to prevent Israel from attacking,” analyst Yoel Guzansky at the Institute for National Security Studies told ABC News. “I think the [Obama] administration is really worried Jerusalem will attack and attack soon. They’re trying hard to prevent it in so many ways.”

The Foreign Policy report by Mark Perry quotes an intelligence officer saying, “We’re watching what Iran does closely....But we’re now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we’re not happy about it.”

If true, the deal with Azerbaijan “totally changes the whole picture,” says Guzansky, making it far easier for Israel to strike faster and harder, rather than having to fly 2,200 miles to Iran and back over Iraqi airspace.

Thursday’s reports come a week after the results of a classified war game was leaked to The New York Times that predicted that an Israeli strike could lead to a wider regional war and result in hundreds of American deaths. In a column Thursday afternoon titled “Obama Betraying Israel?” longtime defense commentator Ron Ben-Yishai at Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper angrily denounced the leaks as a “targeted assassination campaign.”

“In recent weeks the administration shifted from persuasion efforts vis-à-vis decision-makers and Israel’s public opinion to a practical, targeted assassination of potential Israeli operations in Iran,” Ben-Yishai writes. “The campaign’s aims are fully operational: To make it more difficult for Israeli decision-makers to order the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] to carry out a strike, and what’s even graver, to erode the IDF’s capacity to launch such strike with minimal casualties.”

Ben-Yishai says much of the information in the reports has either been published or is simply wrong, but in the case of the Bloomberg report on American knowledge of Iran’s nuclear facilities, “instead of forcing the Iranians to piece together all the assessments themselves, the Congress report offers them everything in one place.”

The reports pressure both Israel and Iran, fellow Yedioth columnist and military analyst Alex Fishman told ABC News, but he doesn’t buy into the theory that Azerbaijan will be a base for potential Israeli operations.

“I don’t believe that there’s news behind this story because it doesn’t make sense. It’s very romantic, very John le Carre, but less practical,” he says, explaining that the airstrips as they are now are far too basic for a “huge wing of airplanes.”

The report’s purpose is “to show the Iranians that something is going on, to make them much more suspicious, much more nervous. You need this pressure in order to put them in a lower position when negotiations start.”

Iran has agreed to international nuclear talks next month, negotiations that the U.S. hopes will help avert a conflict but that Israel dismisses as a stalling tactic by Iran. Asked whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees the reports as pressure from the Obama administration, an Israeli official indicated that they fall into the very category of “loose talk” of war that President Obama recently criticized.

“When we [Netanyahu's office] were in Washington [in early March], President Obama called publicly for people to tone down the rhetoric,” said the official. “The prime minister has called on ministers not to talk. We agree with Obama that loose talk is not doing anyone any favors.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: US War Game Points to Drawbacks of Attacking Iran

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- American officials familiar with a recent classified war simulation exercise carried out by Central Command in the Middle East are reportedly concerned that the U.S. would be drawn into a wider war in the region if Israel goes ahead and attacks Iran to wipe out its nuclear program.

The two-week test was intended to only get a handle on the U.S. military capabilities to respond to such a crisis, not to rehearse a possible military strike if it came to that, The New York Times reports, citing officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

But the outcome of the exercise suggests that it would be almost unavoidable for American forces not to get directly involved, which could immediately lead to the loss of hundreds of lives on Navy warships that are stationed in the region.

It's believed that a preemptive strike by Israel would push back Iran's nuclear program by a year, and if joined by American firepower, perhaps by two years, according to the Times.  However, if President Obama should order a full-scale strike, Iran's nuclear program could be significantly damaged.

The administration has already said it prefers to settle the matter through sanctions and diplomatic means while cautioning Israel about the unknowable repercussions of what could happen if it decides to move ahead unilaterally.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israeli Official: If World Can't Protect Syrians, It Can't Protect Us

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- A top Israeli official has little faith that the rest of the world can keep his country safe from Iran.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's ominous opinion suggests that Israel would take matters into its own hands to get rid of the threat of Iranian's nuclear program.

Lieberman based his view on the current situation in Syria, in which he said the international community has done nothing to stop "systematic murder of innocent civilians."

This perceived weakness "challenges all the promises of the international community that they are responsible for our security," according to the foreign minister, who is the equivalent of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In a sign that his country would move ahead to protect its interests, Lieberman added, "Ultimately, the state of Israel will take the decisions that are most appropriate based on its evaluation of the situation."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Joint Chiefs Chairman Says US Not Advising Israel on Iran

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With reports Tuesday that Israel won't notify the U.S. ahead of time if it decides to knock out Iran's nuclear program, Capitol Hill lawmakers want to know what kind of advice the Pentagon has been giving its Israeli allies about the matter.

According to the Israeli officials, the U.S. would be kept in the dark about any preemptive strike so that Iran has less of a reason to retaliate against American interests.

As for what the U.S. told Israel related to a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he did not advise against a military strike when meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials last month.

All Dempsey would tell the Senate panel was, "We’ve had a conversation with them about time, the issue of time."

The general previously said in an interview that any Israeli action against Iran would be "destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives."

When Dempsey was asked by lawmakers Tuesday if the U.S. was backing off the possibility of having to attack Iran itself, he replied, "Absolutely not."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US, West Want Israel to Hold Off on Attacking Iran

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Israel has more to lose than any other nation should Iran stock nuclear weapons.  Hence, there's been a lot of talk about the Israelis launching a preemptive military strike to eliminate this threat.

President Obama and other Western leaders have made it clear to Israel to hold off on attacking Iran until tough new sanctions that are supposed to hit at the heart of the Iranian's oil shipping business are given time to work.

The level of concern that Israel might act unilaterally has reached the point where several high-level U.S officials have either spoken or will speak to Israeli leaders to have patience, including National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is siding more with the hawks in the Israeli Cabinet about launching a preemptive strike, is due in Washington next week for talks with President Obama.

Israel taking action of this kind is not unprecedented.  In 1981, its military knocked out an unfinished reactor outside Baghdad, and in 2007, Israel destroyed a partially constructed nuclear reactor in Syria.

Doing the same in Iran will be more difficult, since the Iranians have several facilities hidden --  including one built into a mountain.

The chief concern is that if the Israelis are unsuccessful, it would trigger a missile attack by the Iranians that could strike deep within the country.

Instability in the Middle East would also roil world markets and send the price of oil skyrocketing everywhere.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Threatens to Cut Off Oil Supplies to European Customers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran is telling some of its steadiest oil customers that if they go along with tough sanctions to punish Tehran for its nuclear program, they won't be getting any more fuel.

That message was delivered Wednesday by the Iranian Foreign Ministry to Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal.

Iran's state news agency reported, "Iran warns Europe it will find other customers for its oil.  European people should know that if Iran changes destinations of the oil it gives to them, the responsibility will rest with the European governments themselves."

It was the European Union last month that said it would install an embargo on Iranian oil by July 1 unless Iran stopped its uranium enrichment program, a major step in the development of nuclear weapons.

Iran also announced Wednesday advancements in its nuclear energy capabilities with centrifuges that can supposedly enrich uranium at a faster rate.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had telegraphed this announcement a few days earlier, celebrated the occasion by inserting the first nuclear fuel rod produced in Iran into a nuclear reactor.

Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are dedicated to peaceful pursuits, a claim widely disputed by Israel and the West.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ahmadinejad Promises Nuclear News in a 'Few Days'

ABC/ Donna Svennevik(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on state TV Saturday that "the world will witness the inauguration of great achievements in the nuclear sphere in a few days."

According to the BBC, Ahmadinejad told a crowd in Tehran's Azadi Square that "all needs of the Iranian nation" would soon be met by nuclear scientists and that if the West continues to "use the language of force and insult, the Iranian nation will never yield." Ahmadinejad was appearing at a rally that marked the 33rd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

During his address, Iran's president insisted that Iran will never cede its uranium program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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