Israel is committed to ensuring Iran does not get nuclear weapons, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated Monday, even as Iran and the
International Atomic Energy Agency held their first high-level meeting since the
June election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
This meeting followed
two days of discussions in Geneva two weeks ago between Iran and the P5+1 – the
US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – and prior to another round of
talks scheduled for November 7 and 8.
“I heard Iranian officials define
the last round of talks as ‘useful and constructive,’” Netanyahu said. “Well, I
am sure that for the Iranians they were useful and constructive, because they
just win time to continue their enrichment program to create fissile material
for nuclear weapons.”
Netanyahu, speaking alongside Nigerian President
Goodluck Jonathan before a meeting between the two men, said the talks would
indeed be “useful and constructive” when the pressure on Iran compelled it to
completely halt its uranium enrichment and stop work on its hard water plutonium
reactor – two elements not needed for the production of nuclear energy, but only
for building a bomb.
Stopping Iran’s nuclear march, Netanyahu said, was
not only important for Israel, but also for Nigeria and the rest of the world.
The prime minister said that Israel and Nigeria share a common interest in
fighting terrorism and that Iran was “the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the
Nigeria is one of a cluster of countries in sub- Saharan Africa
with whom Israel shares common concerns about Islamic radicalism and terror, and
these concerns have led to growing political and security cooperation. The other
countries in this cluster include Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South
Jonathan’s visit here, the first ever by a sitting Nigerian
president, indicates the closeness of that cooperation. It also comes on the eve
of Nigeria assuming a two-year seat in January – for the second time since 2010
– as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
belittled Iran’s characterization of “useful talks” recently, the Islamic
Republic’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi met in Vienna Monday with IAEA
head Yukiya Amano and said he made proposals and offered a “a new approach” to
easing international concerns about the Iranian nuclear program.
inspectors want to resume an investigation, long stymied by Iranian
non-cooperation, into the “possible military dimensions” of the Islamic
Republic’s nuclear program.
Araqchi said he had had “very useful”
discussions with Amano and had made proposals to him to be addressed in detail
by senior IAEA and Iranian experts later in the day.
“I am very hopeful
that we can come out with a good result,” Araqchi told reporters in
“It is very important for all of us that we can show concrete
progress,” Amano said, seated across a table from Araqchi at IAEA headquarters
as the talks began.
“We think this is the time to take a new approach to
resolving [questions] between Iran and the IAEA and look to the future for
further cooperation in order to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear
program,” Araqchi said.
He gave no details, although added, “It is
peaceful and it will remain peaceful for ever.”
There was some
expectation that Monday’s meeting might lead to some Iranian concessions,
perhaps allowing UN inspectors to visit its Parchin military base southeast of
Tehran – long an IAEA priority.
Netanyahu has consistently urged the
world not to relieve sanctions in response to what he believes will be merely
cosmetic Iranian concessions.
The Iran-IAEA talks are in parallel to
renewed talks between Iran and the P5+1.
Olli Heinonen, former deputy
director of the IAEA now with the Belfer Center for Science and International
Affairs at Harvard, said in a conference call with reporters on Monday that the
agency and international community should challenge Iran to justify the
existence of its heavy-water plutonium reactor in Arak.
Referring to the
plant as “rainy day” insurance for the larger Iranian uranium enrichment
program, Heinonen said the Arak reactor served no practical civilian nuclear
Heinonen said that, with the mass production and installation of
advanced IR2M centrifuges, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade material from
current stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20 percent within one month.
end to Iran’s higher-grade enrichment of uranium is a central demand of the
Refining uranium to 20% is sensitive as it is a relatively short
technical step to raise that to the 90% needed for making a nuclear
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that the focus on
Iran’s concession to cease enrichment of uranium to 20% was
Because of the efficiency of the new centrifuges, uranium
enriched to just 3.5% – the heaviest lift in the enrichment process – could be
quickly enriched further into weapons grade uranium in roughly eight to 10
The production of weapons-grade uranium, enriched beyond 90%, is
now a matter of the Iranian government choosing to do so, Heinonen
The IAEA inspects Iran’s publicly-acknowledged nuclear plants every
month, turning around internal reports shortly after each visit.
US director of national intelligence James Clapper has testified before Congress
saying that if Iran chose to break out to highly enriched uranium, the US does
not believe they would do so at sites under IAEA monitor.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, responding to a recent report from the
Institute for Science and International Security claiming that Iran will be
capable of efficient nuclear breakout within a month, said Monday “We would know
if Iran were at a point where this was the next step.
“We maintain our
own assessments” on time-frames, Psaki said. “That’s what we rely on. We continue
to closely monitor the Iranian process and its stockpile of enriched
Reuters contributed to this report.