The presidential elections in Iran next week will have no impact whatsoever on
the country’s continued march toward nuclear weapons, or its arming of Syria,
Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said
Netanyahu, speaking at a special Knesset session to discuss
the Arab League peace initiative, said no one should have any “illusions” about
the Iranian elections.
The prime minister also said that the Iranians
have over the past six months enriched another 70 kg. of uranium to 20 percent,
bringing their total stockpile of uranium enriched to this degree to 180
Last September at the UN, when Netanyahu unfurled a diagram of a bomb
and drew a thick red line, he made clear that Israel would consider an Iranian
stockpile of 240 kg. of uranium enriched to 20% as the red line beyond which the
Iranians must not be allowed to cross.
“They still have not crossed the
red line that I delineated at the UN, but they are systematically getting
closer,” he said.
Netanyahu pointed out that all of the problems Israel
faces would be “dwarfed” were Iran to get a bomb.
In Vienna, meanwhile,
the US said on Wednesday it was “deeply troubled” by Iran’s plans to start a
reactor in 2014 that could yield nuclear bomb material while failing to give UN
inspectors necessary design information about the plant.
The comments by
a US envoy to a board meeting of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency
highlighted deepening Western concern about the heavy water reactor that Iran is
building near the town of Arak.
Tension over Iran’s nuclear course is
rising with talks between Tehran and six powers stalled. Analysts say this type
of facility can produce plutonium for weapons if the spent fuel is
Tasked with ensuring that nuclear material is not diverted
for military purposes, the IAEA says Iran must urgently give it design data
about Arak, warning that it would otherwise restrict its ability to monitor the
“We are deeply troubled that Iran claims that the IR-
40 heavy water reactor at Arak could be commissioned as soon as early 2014, but
still refuses to provide the requisite design information for the reactor,”
Joseph Macmanus, the US ambassador to the IAEA, told the 35- nation board of
He cited IAEA rules that a member state must inform the
Vienna-based UN agency about a nuclear plant and give design details, as soon as
it has decided to build one. Iran says it must do so only before loading nuclear
fuel into the reactor.
“Iran’s refusal to fulfill this basic obligation
must necessarily cause one to ask whether Iran is again pursuing covert nuclear
activities,” Macmanus said, according to a copy of his speech to the closed-door
Western worries about Iran are focused largely on uranium
enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, as such material refined to a high level
can provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
But diplomats and experts
say Arak could offer Iran a second route to nuclear bombs, if it decided to
The Arak reactor “creates what is sometimes referred to as a
plutonium path to potential weapons-grade material for a nuclear device,”
Macmanus told reporters outside the board meeting.
Experts say Arak could
produce enough plutonium for one bomb per year, but Iran would first have to
build a facility to chemically separate the material from the spent
The 27-nation European Union said Iran’s expansion of sensitive
nuclear activities, including its Arak plans, and lack of transparency toward
the IAEA “further aggravate the international community’s existing
To signal big power unity on Iran, China and Russia joined
four Western powers in pressing Iran at the IAEA meeting to cooperate with a
stalled investigation by the UN nuclear agency into suspected atomic weapons
research by Tehran.
In a joint statement, the six powers said they were
But, like previous such diplomatic initiatives, it
looked unlikely to have any immediate impact in softening Iran’s defiance in the
face of increasing international pressure to make it curb activity with both
civilian and military uses.
“We are deeply concerned that Iran continues
to undertake certain nuclear activities contrary to UN Security Council and IAEA
board resolutions,” the powers said in the text read out by Germany’s ambassador
at a meeting.
The IAEA has held 10 rounds of negotiations with Iran since
early 2012 in a sofar fruitless effort to get it to address indications of what
the Vienna-based UN agency calls the “possible military dimensions” to its
The IAEA board was meeting in Vienna at a time of
apparent deadlock in a broader diplomatic push by the six powers known as the
P5+1 – the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain – to find a
peaceful solution to the dispute.