Technicians work in a nuclear facility near Bushehr, Iran.
05 January 2010 Allies Want Nuclear Talks with Iran to Stay Open, January 5, 2010
By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington — The United States and its allies are trying to keep talks with Iranian officials over its nuclear development program open and moving forward, but additional pressure and sanctions may be appropriate, says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“We remain committed to working with our international partners on addressing the serious concerns we have regarding Iran’s nuclear program,” Clinton said January 4 at a Washington press briefing with Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani.
The approach taken by the United States and five other western nations has been along two tracks: a diplomatic one involving direct talks with Iranian officials, and another involving pressure and sanctions through the U.N. Security Council.
China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — collectively known as the P5+1 — have been negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. This group grew out of earlier efforts by France, Germany and the United Kingdom to convince Iranian officials to suspend uranium enrichment in return for a package of incentives. The six powers also jointly offered Iran a package of trade and diplomatic incentives three years ago to forgo its uranium enrichment efforts, and added to the incentives, but Iranian authorities continued to reject suspension of uranium enrichment.
Uranium enrichment is one necessary component of weapons development to build a nuclear bomb.
In a tentative agreement reached with Iranian officials in October 2009, Iran would have shipped much of its low-enriched uranium out of the country for further enrichment into a form that would be difficult to use in weapons production. The latest offer involved Iran shipping the bulk of its low-enriched uranium to Russia for processing in a single shipment to be returned to Iran. The enriched uranium would be designated for use in a medical research reactor in Tehran, which has been subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
On January 2, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki rejected that offer and proposed an ultimatum to the western nations.
“We’re disappointed by their response to the proposal for the Tehran research reactor,” Clinton said. The Iranians, who have claimed that their nuclear development program is for civil purposes, offered a one-month deadline for the western nations to respond to their counterproposal.
Clinton said the counterproposal from the Iranians was unacceptable, as well as the deadline. She said the six nations that have been negotiating with Iran have not used the term “deadline” as a way of keeping the talks open and moving forward.
“We’ve also made it clear we can’t continue to wait and we cannot continue to stand by when the Iranians themselves talk about increasing their production of high-enriched uranium and additional facilities for nuclear power that very likely can be put to dual use,” she said.
“We have already begun discussions with our partners and with likeminded nations about pressure and sanctions,” she added without elaborating on the details of those talks.
The U.N. Security Council has previously imposed three rounds of political and economic sanctions to convince Iranian leaders to halt uranium enrichment and give up plans for a weapons program. In November 2009, the IAEA Board of Governors voted to condemn Iran for building a second uranium enrichment plant at Qom, and the Iranian regime followed up by announcing plans to build 10 more plants to enrich uranium. Iran’s primary nuclear development facility is near the city of Natanz.
Clinton said the United States and its partners are concerned about the behavior of the Iranian regime in recent months, and not just about its actions in the nuclear talks. She said the additional concerns stem from Iran’s treatment of political opponents.
“We are deeply disturbed by the mounting signs of ruthless repression that they are exercising against those who assemble and express viewpoints that are at variance with what the leadership of Iran wants to hear,” she said.
The Iranian regime’s security services cracked down on major anti-government protests in several cities December 27, 2009, and arrested more than 500 demonstrators amid reports of eight protestors being killed, according to news service reports. Security services have also detained at least 20 high-level opposition officials, reports said.
“Iran is going through a very turbulent period in its history. There are many troubling signs of the actions that they are taking,” Clinton said. “We want to reiterate that we stand with those Iranians who are peacefully demonstrating.”
Clinton said the United States condemns the loss of life as well as the detention and imprisonment, the torture and abuse of Iranian citizens.