Apr 4 2009
FINANCIAL TIMES OF LONDON reporting US may cede to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
By Daniel Dombey in Washington, April 3 2009
US officials are considering whether to accept Iran’s pursuit of uranium enrichment, which has been outlawed by the United Nations and remains at the heart of fears that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability.
As part of a policy review commissioned by President Barack Obama, diplomats are discussing whether the US will eventually have to accept Iran’s insistence on carrying out the process, which can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons- grade material.
“There’s a fundamental impasse between the western demand for no enrichment and the Iranian dem and to continue enrichment,” says Mark Fitzpatrick, a former state department expert now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “There’s no obvious compromise bet ween those two positions.”
“There is a growing recognition in [Washington] that the zero [enrichment] solution, though still favoured, simply is unfeasible,” says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. “The US may still have zero as its opening position, while recognising it may not be where things stand at the end of a potential agreement.”
On Friday, Mr Obama summarised the US message to Iran as, “Don’t develop a nuclear weapon” – a form of words that would not rule out a deal accepting Iranian enrichment. Mr Bush was much more specific in calling Iran to halt enrichment.
A series of UN Security Council resolutions since 2006 has forbidden Iran from enriching uranium, with the European Union, Russia and China backing US calls for Tehran to halt the process.
But Iran has sped up its programme during that time and has installed more than 5,500 centrifuges to enrich uranium and has amassed a stockpile of more than 1,000kg of low-enriched uranium – enough, if it were enriched to higher levels, to produce fissile material for one bomb. “Across the political spectrum in Iran, enrichment as a right has become a non-negotiable position,” Mr Parsi said.
Indicating possible space for negotiations, Dennis Blair, Mr Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, said last month that he believed Iran had not yet made the decision to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a wearhead for a bomb. He added: “Iran at a minimum, is keeping open the option to develop deliverable nuclear weapons.”
The US line that Iran is seeking the capability to develop nuclear weapons – but not necessarily such weapons themselves – contrasts with Mr Bush’s insistence while in office that it sought nuclear weapons.
Iranian regime insiders have said they would expect a compromise by the US on enrichment to be reciprocated. Such a move before the Iranian presidential elections in June would also be seen as a huge victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, who has accused his internal critics of submitting to western pressures.
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