With critical talks on the Iranian nuclear program set to begin Friday, Tehran
already rejected two key demands on Sunday by the world’s powers: Closing the
Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility near Qom and stopping the
enrichment of uranium to 20 percent.
Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, the head of
Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, called the Western diplomats’ demands “irrational,”
according to AFP.
AFP quoted Davani as saying in an interview with the
Iranian ISNA news agency that the Fordow facility had to be built underground
because of the West’s threats to attack the Islamic Republic’s nuclear
“If they do not threaten us and guarantee that no aggression
will occur, then there would be no need for countries to build facilities
They should change their behavior and language,” he
Davani added that Iran would continue to produce uranium enriched
to 20%, but not “more than we need, because it is not in our benefit to produce
it and keep it.”
Iran claims it needs 20% enriched uranium to produce
medical isotopes in its Tehran Research Reactor, while the West believes the 20%
enriched uranium is a stepping stone to creating nuclear weapons.
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ridiculed the isotopes claim during his speech to
the America Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference last month,
saying: “A country that builds underground nuclear facilities, develops
intercontinental ballistic missiles, manufactures thousands of centrifuges and
absorbs crippling sanctions, is doing all that in order to advance... medical
research. So you see, when that Iranian ICBM is flying through the air to a
location near you, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s only carrying medical
Getting Iran to suspend its high-level uranium enrichment and
close the bunker at Fordow are “near-term priorities” for the United States and
its allies, a senior US official said on Sunday, confirming an earlier New York
Those priorities overlap with conditions – first published
last week in The Jerusalem Post – that Defense Minister Ehud Barak outlined in a
statement he released Sunday.
Barak said Iran must open all of its
nuclear facilities to the IAEA, disclose its entire history of activity relating
to its nuclear weapons program and surrender its entire stockpile of uranium –
approximately 120 kilograms – enriched to 20%.
In addition, Barak said
that Iran would need to suspend all of its enrichment activity and transfer the
majority of the 5 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5% out of the country, leaving
just enough needed for energy purposes.
If Iran complied with these
conditions, Barak said that Israel would agree to an arrangement whereby a third
country would transfer fuel rods to Iran for the purpose of activating the
Tehran Research Reactor.
“The goal will be to ensure that Iran cannot
build a nuclear weapon for many years,” a senior defense official
In a CNN interview on Sunday, Barak said Israel had told both
the US and the Europeans that it “expected the threshold for successful
negotiations to be clear,” namely that there is “no more enrichment to 20%,” and
that all uranium enriched to 20% be removed to a “trusted” neighboring
Barak explained that Israel’s demand that Iran also surrender
the majority of its uranium enriched to 3.5% was to prevent Tehran’s ability to
still develop a nuclear weapon, albeit at a slower pace.
that if the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – who are
negotiating with Tehran, would set the threshold lower, the Iranians would have
“bought their way into continuing their military program, slightly slower, but
without sanctions,” at “a very cheap cost.”
Barak’s position was a bit
more flexible than the one articulated by Netanyahu prior to a meeting with
visiting Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Sunday. Netanyahu called for the
removal of all enriched uranium, in addition to closing the Fordow facility and
stopping all further enrichment.
Netanyahu said that the Iranians were
using the talks to “stall and deceive” the world, and said Israel would follow
the negotiations carefully.
Netanyahu’s demands varied slightly from what
he said last month in Ottawa, where he did not say that all enriched uranium had
to be removed, but only the uranium enriched beyond 3.5%.
hopes the talks will succeed in stopping Iran’s nuclear pursuit, there is
general skepticism within the defense establishment that Tehran will cave in to
the pressure and suspend all of its nuclear activity.
“It’s clear that
the depth of the sanctions is different from what we had in the past and it has
its impact... But I don’t believe that this amount of sanctions and pressure
will bring the Iranian leadership to the conclusion that they have to stop their
nuclear military program,” Barak said in the CNN interview.
Iranian media reported Sunday that the new round of talks with the P5+1 would
resume in Istanbul on Friday. The last round of talks collapsed there more than
a year ago.
A return to the table had been in doubt after Iran and the
P5+1 countries released conflicting statements about the venue.
had earlier voiced concerns about holding them in Turkey, whose opposition to
Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, has angered the Islamic
“After weeks of debates, Iran and the six world powers agreed
to attend a first meeting in Istanbul,” the semi-official Fars news agency
reported, citing unnamed sources. Staterun English language Press TV carried the
The Fars news agency also said the sides had agreed to a
second round of talks in Baghdad if there was progress in Turkey. There was no
immediate comment on the venue from the world powers.
Turkey’s NTV news
quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying: “It wouldn’t be
appropriate to make a statement on an issue that hasn’t been confirmed. As soon
it’s confirmed, we will immediately share this with you.”
Minister Avigdor Liberman, meanwhile, related to Iran during his meeting with
the visiting Italian prime minister, saying that Israel has “no problem” with
the Iranian people, and until the Islamic revolution in 1979 had friendly ties
with that country.
Israel’s problem, he said, was with the “extreme
ayatollahs” leading that country.
Beyond the nuclear problem, Liberman
said, Iran also radiates a message of violence and complete disregard for
international norms, evident over the last few months in the violent takeover of
the British embassy in Tehran, the plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in
the US, support for Assad’s ruthless regime and the death sentence imposed on a
Muslim who converted to Christianity.
Jerusalem Post staff and Reuters
contributed to this report.