Netanyahu tells cabinet Iran has sped up its nuclear program, and issue will be central topic during Obama visit.
By HERB KEINON, REUTERSPublished: FEBRUARY 17, 2013 15:41Advertisement
Iran will never shut down its Fordow uranium enrichment plant, a senior legislator was quoted as saying on Sunday, brushing off a key demand from the world powers.The Islamic republic started building the plant inside a mountain in secret as early as 2006, to protect it from air strikes.Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that the Iranian issue would be one of the central issues during his talks in Jerusalem next month with US President Barack Obama.Unfortunately, Netanyahu said, Iran’s nuclear progress is continuing, “and Iran has recently sped up its nuclear activities. It is enriching uranium at a high level, and has installed new centrifuges to shorten the time it will take to reach and cross that line that I indicated in my UN speech.”He has said that the world powers, in their talks with Iran, must demand the closure of the plant.Last week, Reuters reported world powers were planning to offer to ease sanctions barring trade in gold and other precious metals with Iran in return for steps to shut down Fordow.But Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, referred to the reported offer on Sunday and dismissed any idea of a closure, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.“Fordow will never be shut down because... our national duty is to be able to defend our nuclear and vital canters against an enemy threat,” Boroujerdi was quoted as saying by the agency.“This suggestion (shutting down Fordow) is meant to help the Zionist regime,” he added.The United States and its allies are particularly worried about Fordow because Iran is refining uranium there to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, which Iran says it needs for a medical reactor. Twenty percent purity is only a short technical step from weapons-grade uranium.Western officials said last week the offer to ease sanctions barring gold and other precious metals trade with Iran would be presented at February 26 talks between Iran and world powers in Almaty, Kazakhstan.They acknowledged it represented a relatively modest update to proposals that the six major powers put forward last year.Iran’s parliament has little control over the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, which is decided by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
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