1. Ahmadinejad Dismisses US Deadline for Nuke Deal
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Iran's president on Tuesday dismissed a year-end deadline set by the Obama administration and the West for Tehran to accept a U.N.-drafted deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel, and claimed his government is now "10 times stronger" than a year ago.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks underscored Tehran's defiance amid the nuclear standoff — and also sought to send a message that his government had not been weakened by the protest movement sparked by June's disputed presidential election. His comments came a day after the latest opposition protest by tens of thousands mourning a dissident cleric who died over the weekend.
President Barack Obama has set a rough deadline of the end of this year for Iran to respond to an offer of dialogue and show that it will allay fears of weapons development. Washington and its allies are warning of new, tougher sanctions on Iran if it doesn't respond.
The U.N.-proposed deal is the centerpiece of the West's diplomatic effort. Under the deal, Tehran would ship most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad to be processed into fuel rods, which would ease the West's fears that the material could be used to produce a nuclear weapon.
Iran, which denies it seeks to build a bomb, has balked at the deal's terms.
The international community can give Iran "as many deadlines as they want, we don't care," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to thousands of supporters in the southern city of Shiraz.
Ahmadinejad dismissed the threat of sanctions, saying Iran wants talks "under just conditions where there is mutual respect."
"We told you that we are not afraid of sanctions against us and we are not intimidated," he said, addressing the West. "If Iran wanted to make a bomb, we would be brave enough to tell you."
"This nuclear game thing is an old story, it's history now," the Iranian leader said, as the crowd cheered: "We love you, Ahmadinejad." He lashed out at Washington, vowing Iran will stand up against U.S. attempts to "dominate the Middle East."
He also shrugged off Iran's continued political turmoil since the June election, which the opposition says Ahmadinejad won by fraud. Large street protests have continued despite a fierce government crackdown. In the latest, tens of thousands turned out for the funeral of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died Sunday, and chanted slogans against the country's rulers.
Ahmadinejad did not directly mention the protests. But he said the West mistakenly believed that Iran "has been weakened."
"The people of Iran and the government of Iran are 10 times stronger than last year," he said. "I want the whole world to know it's impossible for Iran to allow the United States to dominate the Middle East."
Iran says its nuclear program is intended only to generate electricity and that it has a right to proceed with uranium enrichment, which the United Nations has demanded it suspend. The process can produce low-enriched uranium used to fuel a nuclear reactor — or higher enriched uranium, which is the basis for building a nuclear warhead.
Under the deal brokered by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency last month, most of Iran's low-enriched uranium would be shipped abroad, where it would be enriched further to produce fuel rods. The rods would then be returned to Iran for use in a research reactor in Tehran, but it would not be possible to enrich them further to a high enough level to build a bomb.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iRqjZV1Meppj40hTs8IBOv4DdsQwD9COB39O0
2. China Signals Resistance to Iran Sanctions, Seeks Further Talks
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China signaled resistance to any U.S. and European push for tougher United Nations sanctions on Iran, saying talks aimed at preventing its development of nuclear weapons should be given a chance to succeed.
“We ask for more time to be given and efforts to be made to see if we can reach some sort of breakthrough,” La Yifan, China’s envoy for Security Council and political affairs at the UN, said in an interview yesterday. “The door to diplomatic efforts is not completely slammed yet. Efforts should focus on trying to find a solution to the current impasse.”
La’s stance reflects the difficulty the U.S., Britain, France and Germany will have in pursuing tougher UN sanctions on Iran next month. The Obama administration set a Dec. 31 deadline for progress on the diplomatic track, and France’s ambassador to the UN said earlier this month that there was no longer any reason to delay a push for sanctions.
The U.S. and its European partners suspect Iran’s uranium enrichment work is part of the development of a nuclear weapons capability.
China holds one of the five permanent seats on the 15- nation Security Council, along with the U.S., France, Britain and Russia. Those veto-wielding members and Germany, which have been trying to convince Iran to scale back its nuclear program, offered at an October meeting in Geneva to enrich uranium Iran needs for a reactor that makes medical isotopes.
The Iranian government has never given a formal reply to the proposal, which the U.S. has portrayed as a confidence- building measure. Iran insists its enrichment program is only intended for civilian energy projects.
“Clearly, China will be the hardest sell,” Cliff Kupchan, a senior analyst at Eurasia Group, a New York political-risk consulting firm, said in a telephone interview. “Their position is, rhetorically at least, more problematic than the Russian position, so the Chinese are going to face a real test because sanctions are moving.”
China and Russia, while resisting most UN sanctions resolutions, have voted for three measures punishing Iran for ignoring demands that it stop enriching uranium. The resolutions have blocked financial transactions by Iran, imposed an embargo on arms sales and banned the travel of officials working on the nation’s nuclear and missile programs.
“The gap between Russia and China is opening,” Kupchan said. “My instinct is that Russia will be the deal maker.”
Iran Stance Cited
La cited Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s statement last week that his government might agree to exchange enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods outside its territory. He was responding to the proposal for Iran to send 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and then France for processing into reactor fuel, to ensure it isn’t boosted to weapons grade.
“We note the recent remarks by Iranian authorities of a kind of continued willingness to have an exchange,” La, 43, said. “With regard to the venue and also the modalities of such exchanges, those are the issues that a solution should be found through continued discussion.”
European nations have proposed sanctions against Iran that would further hit its nuclear program and its financial system, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said yesterday. The list doesn’t impact Iran’s domestic fuel industry because that would hurt the population and be “counter-productive,” Kouchner told reporters in Paris.
The U.S. House voted last week to support possible pressure on companies that sell gasoline to Iran. Iran depends on gasoline imports because of limited refining capacity at home.
The U.S. administration favors a new push for sanctions, although it wants to give Iran until the end of the year to respond to offers to enrich uranium outside the country, according to Kouchner.
“The Russians are on board and the Chinese will follow,” Kouchner said, though he criticized Chinese companies for signing commercial and industrial contracts with Iran.
Asked about statements indicating that the West’s patience has run out, La called those remarks “unfortunate” and expressed hope that there will “not be a spiraling out of control” of the discussion.
On Nov. 27, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency censured Iran for concealing an enrichment plant, with the U.S., Russia, China, France and the U.K. all voting for the motion.
La praised the Obama administration’s overall commitment to diplomacy on the Iranian issue, as well as conflicts with North Korea, Sudan and Myanmar.
“The Obama administration is taking the right approach” on North Korea, La said, adding that U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth’s recent trip to North Korea was “highly useful.”
The U.S. is working with China, Russia, Japan and South Korea to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear arms. North Korea has committed to resuming those so-called six-party talks.
La said Obama’s efforts at engagement with Sudan, over the conflict in Darfur, and Myanmar’s military junta over its repression of political opponents and ethnic minorities, is producing results. Further Security Council involvement with either nation isn’t warranted at this time, he said.
“If you compare the situation in Darfur today with that of two years ago you can see a significant improvement,” he said. “Let’s give them a fair chance to find a solution.”
On Myanmar, the “signs are positive,” La said, that democratic elections may be held next year.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a0XK_aiCOjYA&pos=9#
3. Iran Nuclear Trigger Report a U.S. Forgery: Ahmadinejad
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A leaked memo appearing to show Tehran's efforts to design an atomic bomb trigger was forged by the United States, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a U.S. news program.
Ahmadinejad was asked by ABC News about a report in London's Times newspaper last week on what it said was a confidential Iranian technical document describing a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the part of a warhead that sets off an explosion. "They are all fabricated bunch of papers continuously being forged and disseminated by the American government," he told the U.S. network in an interview broadcast on Monday.
Reports that Iran is working on a bomb trigger are "fundamentally not true," Ahmadinejad said.
On December 14, The Times published what it said was the Farsi-language document, with an English translation, entitled "Outlook for Special Neutron-Related Activities Over the Next Four Years."
The document described steps to develop and test parts for a neutron initiator, a device that floods the core of highly enriched uranium with subatomic particles to set off the chain reaction of a nuclear explosion.
Last week, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the report "baseless ... not worthy of attention, intended to put political and psychological pressure on Iran."
Iran, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, says its uranium enrichment program is aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more gas and oil. Because of its record of nuclear secrecy, the West believes Iran wants to make atomic bombs.
In a televised speech in southern Iran on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad said the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Israel should be dismantled. The Jewish state is assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic weapons.
"They must know that the Iranian nation and all the world's nations will continue resisting until the complete (nuclear) disarmament of America and all arrogant powers," he told a crowd at a stadium in the city of Shiraz.
Dismissing Western allegations about Iran's nuclear ambitions, Ahmadinejad said: "You should know that if we had any intention of building a bomb, we would have had enough guts and courage to announce that without any fear from you."
Iran appears to be on course to miss the West's year-end deadline for it to accept an enrichment fuel deal aimed at calming international fears about its nuclear program.
If that happens, Washington has made clear it intends to pursue harsher sanctions against Iran in the United Nations.
Ahmadinejad said in Shiraz: "Who are they to set us a deadline? We set them a deadline that if they do not correct their attitude and behavior and literature we will demand from them the Iranian nation's historic rights."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BL0J420091222
4. Iran Will Pursue Its Nuclear Activity ‘Normally’
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Iran will pursue its nuclear drive in a ‘normal fashion’ and will produce itself the fuel necessary for its Tehran medical reactor, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Monday.
‘Nuclear activity will continue in a normal fashion,’ Mottaki told a news conference as he wrapped up a brief visit to Lebanon.
‘Concerning the fuel needed for the Tehran reactor, Iran will produce it itself,’ he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told AFP on Friday that Iran was ready to strike a uranium enrichment deal if the United States and the West respect the Islamic Republic and stop making threats.
Iran is under three sets of UN sanctions for refusing to suspend enrichment and risks a further round after rejecting a UN-brokered deal to send its low-enriched uranium abroad to be further refined into fuel for the reactor, AFP reported.
But speaking in Cairo, where he is on an official visit, Iranian parliament speaker and former top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said the country would not be hurt by new sanctions.
He said they ‘would have no effect on the Iranian scene.’
Enrichment lies at the heart of fears over Iran’s atomic work as the process to make nuclear fuel can also be used to make the fissile core of an atom bomb in much higher purifications.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely for civilian purposes and rejects Western suspicions that it is covertly trying to develop a bomb.
Earlier this month the United States dismissed an offer by Iran to swap on the Iranian island of Kish 400 kilogrammes of low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel enriched to 20 per cent, in what would be the first phase of a deal with world powers.
Available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/14-iran-will-pursue-its-nuclear-activity-normally-zj-01
5. Japan's Foreign Minister Expresses "Great Concern" to Iran's Nuclear Negotiator
Xinhua News Agency
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Japan's foreign Minister Katsuya Okada on Monday told Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili that Iran's current nuclear standoff is "regrettable," and of "great concern," according to ministry officials.
Okada, at a press conference in Tokyo on Monday, described the ensuing debate that erupted between Iran and the United Nations, following the UN's proposal for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium out of Iran to be converted as fuel for a medical research reactor, as "extremely regrettable."
Jalili maintained that Iran has granted full access of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear facilities and that no evidence has emerged that Iran's nuclear program is being used for anything other than generating energy and thus Tehran is opposed to the IAEA's proposal.
Jalili insisted on Monday that his country's nuclear program is for civilian purposes only and called for the disarmament of all nations with atomic weapons, adding that all countries have the right to develop nuclear energy.
Jalili, whose five-day trip to Japan also includes a visit to the western Japanese city of Hiroshima, which suffered an atomic bombing during World War II, came amid increased tension between Tehran, the UN and the U.S., who suspect Iran plans to enrich uranium at a grade high enough to be used for nuclear weapons.
"I hope you will see how a nuclear weapon can bring about a tragic outcome," Okada said to Jalili, referring to his planned visit to Hiroshima.
"The crime that was committed in Hiroshima must never be repeated," Jalili said to reporters in response.
The U.S. has given Iran until the end of the year to accept the proposal for its uranium enrichment program, warning that further action will be taken should the country, already under heavy sanctions, opt not to comply.
Adding to concerns about Iran's nuclear program was the test firing of an upgraded version of its most powerful missile on Dec.16.
The new missile, a solid-fuel remodel of the two-stage Sejil-2,is more accurate than its previous liquid-fuel rockets, according to an IAEA spokesperson.
The missile test demonstrated Iran is now easily capable of striking any part of Israel, which Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said four years ago should be "wiped off the map."
Analysts said the test appeared aimed at dissuading Israel from launching a pre-emptive military attack on any of Iran's nuclear facilities, which Western powers believe house Iran's secret nuclear weapons development program.
The new medium-range missile tested by Iran is "not particularly different than what we've seen in the past," said Pentagon defense spokesman Geoff Morrell, following the launch.
Washington has condemned the launch saying that the experiment undermines Teheran's insistence of peaceful intentions, and will be looked upon seriously by the world.
Available at: http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/90851/6848371.html
6. Pentagon Developing Options to Deal With Iranian Nuclear Program
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The United States' top military officer says the Pentagon must be ready with military options against Iran's nuclear program in the event the president calls for them.
In a document outlining U.S. military assessments and priorities, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said he believes diplomacy offers the best chance to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.
The admiral added that military action remains an option but that it would have "limited results."
In a television interview broadcast Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed a recent British newspaper report that said Iran is working on a trigger for a nuclear bomb.
Interviewer Diane Sawyer offered Mr. Ahmadinejad a copy of a document obtained by The Times of London which purportedly contained details of Iran's work on the neutron initiator.
The Iranian president waved the document away and said it had been fabricated by the U.S. government.
An advisor to President Obama said Mr. Ahmadinejad's charge is nonsense.
Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, but Iran insists its program is purely peaceful.
Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, visited Tokyo Monday to meet with senior officials. A Japanese official said Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told Jalili he was very concerned about Tehran's nuclear program.
Jalili told reporters that the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II was "a crime" that "must never be repeated."
U.S. officials have said Iran will face consequences from the global community if it continues to rebuff efforts to ensure the peaceful application of its nuclear program.
Available at: http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Pentagon-Developing-Options-to-Deal-With-Iranian-Nuclear-Program-79859057.html
A senior aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that Tehran has access to the technical know-how required for enriching uranium to the purity level of 20 percent.
"We have no problem in the production of nuclear fuel (for the Tehran research reactor)," Mojtaba Hashemi Samareh said at a meeting here in Tehran dubbed as 'Iran's International Position Following Negotiations with the Group 5+1'.
After Iran announced to the IAEA that it had run out of nuclear fuel for its research reactor in Tehran, the Agency proposed a deal according to which Iran would send 3.5%-enriched uranium and receive 20%-enriched uranium from potential suppliers in return, all through the UN nuclear watchdog agency.
The proposal was first introduced on October 1, when Iranian representatives and diplomats from the five permanent UN Security Council members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany (G5+1) held high-level negotiations in Geneva.
Hashemi Samareh reminded Tehran's ability for producing the needed nuclear fuel domestically, and said Iran intended to procure its needed fuel from international suppliers in line with a policy of détente and as part of its confidence-building efforts.
The Islamic Republic of Iran presented an initiative to calm the atmosphere and asked the other side to give Tehran enriched uranium to the purity level of 20 percent to be used in a humanitarian project for producing radioisotopes with medicinal use, Hashemi Samareh said.
Although the other side first supported the initiative, the western media later launched a wave of negative propaganda against the proposal, he added.
But France and the United States, as potential suppliers, stalled the talks soon after the start. They offered a deal which would keep Tehran waiting for months before it could obtain the fuel, a luxury of time that Iran could not afford as it is about to run out of 20-percent-enriched fuel very soon.
The Iranian lawmakers rejected the deal after technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into metal nuclear rods for the Tehran Research Reactor, while suppliers had announced that they would not return fuel to Iran any less than seven months.
Iran then put forward its own proposal that envisages a two-staged exchange. According to Tehran's offer, the IAEA safeguards nearly one third of Iran's uranium stockpile inside the Iranian territory for the time that it takes to find a supplier.
Tehran says it will deal with any potential seller that is a member of the UN nuclear agency to deliver uranium enriched to the level of 20 percent to the UN-monitored site.
Available at: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8809291466
Iran is ready to strike a uranium enrichment deal if the United States and the West respect the Islamic Republic and stop making threats, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told AFP Friday.
‘Everything is possible, 400 kilos, 800 kilos, it’s nothing,’ for enrichment abroad, he said in a new gesture to try to end the nuclear standoff.
‘But not in a climate where they threaten us. They have to change their vocabulary, in respect and legality.’
‘In this case we will say, very good you want to keep your word, in this case we are ready to sit down at the table to reach an agreement,’ Ahmadinejad said in an interview in the Danish capital.
US President Barack Obama’s administration has signalled that time is running out for Iran to seize an offer of diplomatic engagement for resolving the nuclear issues.
The United States and the five other world powers trying to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions are expected to consult by telephone on December 22 amid threats of a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran.
Washington has urged Iran to take up a UN proposal for Iran to send 2,645 pounds of its low enriched uranium to Russia ‘in one batch.’
Ahmadinejad said that 1,200 kilos ‘is not such a large amount. We have the technology and we are currently producing this uranium at 3.5 per cent. From the outset, delivering 1200 kilos of uranium was not a problem for us ... but they believe they can wave a stick to threaten us, those days are over,’ he said.
‘They are threatening us now, with sanctions, with resolutions, pressure, it’s going backwards.’
The United States dismissed earlier this month an Iranian offer to swap 880 pounds of low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel enriched to 20 per cent in an exchange on the Gulf island of Kish, a free trade zone, as the first phase of a deal with world powers.
The Iranian strongman repeated over and over in the 45-minute interview that ‘America and the others’ — referring also to Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — ‘must change (their) attitude and we will sit at the table to find an agreement.’
He called for ‘a middle way,’ but warned, ‘If they say again that they want to take out (low enriched uranium) to prevent Iran from making the bomb, it will be an insult.
‘If we want to make a bomb we would not be afraid of the United States. But we do not want to make a bomb,’ Ahmadinejad said.
‘Our policy is transparent. If we wanted to make a bomb we would be brave enough to say so. When we say that we are not making one, we are not. We do not believe in it.’
Many in the West suspect Iran is developing technology to enrich uranium to highly refined levels to covertly build a nuclear bomb.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely for civilian purposes and rejects Western suspicions that it is covertly trying to develop a bomb.
The United States said Tuesday it will investigate a British newspaper report that Iran is working on a trigger for a nuclear bomb, adding the ‘revelation’ fueled concerns about Iranian intentions.
The Iranian foreign ministry dismissed The Times claim as a ‘scenario’ hatched by Western powers.
Available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/14-stop-threats-if-you-want-a-nuclear-deal-ahmadinejad-tells-west-zj-03
9. Iran FM: We're Willing to Consider Nuclear Fuel Swap
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Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Saturday that Tehran was ready to consider a recent proposal issued by Western nations under which Iran would obtain nuclear fuel from outside sources rather than producing it itself, the official IRNA news agency reported.
"We are ready to examine proposals by the other side about the fuel swap," Mottaki told IRNA.
The United States dismissed earlier this month an offer to swap 400 kilograms of low-enriched uranium on the Iranian island of Kish for nuclear fuel enriched to 20 percent, in what would be the first phase of a deal with world powers.
Mottaki reiterated a mid-December statement that Iran did not "insist on" the Kish plan.
"The objective of that proposal was to open a way for the other side," the news agency quoted Mottaki as saying.
On Friday, the French news agency AFP quoted Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as having said that Iran would be willing to reach a deal with the West over its controversial nuclear program as soon as the U.S. and other Western nations stopped issuing threats against Iran.
"Everything is possible, 400 kilos, 800 kilos, it's nothing," for enrichment abroad, Ahmadinejad was quoted by AFP as saying in a new gesture to try to end the nuclear standoff.
"But not in a climate where they threaten us. They have to change their vocabulary, in respect and legality," Ahmadinejad said.
Six world powers have urged Iran to accept a United Nations-drafted proposal that would have Iran ship 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Russia in one batch.
"From the outset, delivering 1,200 kilos of uranium was not a problem for us," said Ahmadinejad, "but they believe they can wave a stick to threaten us, those days are over."
U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has signaled that time is running out for the diplomatic approach to resolving the nuclear dispute with Iran. Both the U.S. and Israel have not ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities should diplomacy fail.
"They are threatening us now, with sanctions, with resolutions, pressure, it's going backwards," said Ahmadinejad.
The six world powers are expected to consult by telephone on December 22, and are considering a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran come January.
In his interview with AFP, Ahmadinejad repeated many times that "America and the others" - referring also to Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - "must change [their] attitude and we will sit at the table to find an agreement."
He called for "a middle way," but warned, "If they say again that they want to take out [low-enriched uranium] to prevent Iran from making the bomb, it will be an insult.
"If we want to make a bomb we would not be afraid of the United States?but we do not want to make a bomb," Ahmadinejad said.
"Our policy is transparent. If we wanted to make a bomb we would be brave enough to say so. When we say that we are not making one, we are not. We do not believe in it [the bomb]."
Iran insists its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes and rejects Western suspicions that it is trying to develop a bomb.
Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said earlier this week that Iran has over the last year accumulated enough materials to create a nuclear bomb and warned: "The technological clock has almost finished winding."
Yadlin said that Iran had embarked on a "measured and sophisticated strategy for a solid nuclear infrastructure, by spreading out in facilities both overt and covert, while simultaneously developing a military capability that would allow a breakthrough when it so decides."
According to Yadlin, there are three clocks now ticking with regard to Iran's contentious nuclear program - those of technology, diplomacy and of the stability of the Islamic regime. Technologically, said Yadlin, time was almost up.
Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1136113.html
A top Iranian nuclear official sought Friday to ease international worries about his nation's nuclear program days after Tehran test-fired an upgraded medium-range missile that alarmed the West.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran won't have a new generation of more efficient centrifuges for the production of nuclear fuel until 2011 and won't have its heavy-water plant in Arak operational for "three or four years."
His statement was a possible attempt at reassuring world powers that there was no hurry to place new sanctions on Iran.
"The new generations of our centrifuges are undergoing the necessary tests in view of enriching uranium," he said, according to the Fars News Agency. "We are not hurrying at all for entering the phase of industrial-scale production of fuel."
He said about 6,000 of Iran's centrifuges were operational. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear monitoring arm of the United Nations, in its last report said that about half of Iran's 8,000 centrifuges were enriching uranium.
Iran has struggled to master advanced nuclear technology. The new IR-3 and IR-4 centrifuges can theoretically boost Iran's nuclear capabilities by more efficiently and quickly teasing out key isotopes, suitable for civilian energy production or bomb manufacturing, from raw uranium. Salehi said Iran hoped it could begin operating the new centrifuges by March 2011.
Iran produces several kilograms of reactor-grade uranium a day at its facility in Natanz. The material, if further refined, could be turned into fuel for a nuclear weapon. The government in Tehran says it is not pursuing atomic weapons, but only energy for civilian purposes, an assertion the U.S. and others distrust.
Salehi also said Iran prefers to purchase fuel for a Tehran medical research reactor rather than swap its enriched uranium for the fuel rods, as proposed by the West and Russia.
"We are in favor of interaction, and the Western governments should not lose this chance," he said. "We can potentially produce fuel inside the country. However, we prefer to buy from abroad."
The standoff between the West and the Islamic Republic over the nuclear issue comes amid one of Iran's worst domestic political crises in decades, sparked by the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June and the ensuing protest movement.
On Friday, a cleric described by state television as a representative of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for the death of opposition leaders and a harsh crackdown on anti-government protesters. The statement ratcheted up tensions ahead of anticipated unrest during the days leading up to important Shiite Muslim religious ceremonies.
"Those who intend to press ahead with their conspiracies and spread rumors to please the enemies and undermine the Islamic regime should be put to death in the worst possible manner," mid-ranking cleric Mohammad-Hossein Rahimian said in comments broadcast by state television. "Their gatherings should be dispersed in such a way that only a few of them would remain, a few who would not be able to do much."
In contrast, prayer leader Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, a moderate, urged both sides in the political dispute over the elections to stand down, showing the lingering rift within the political and religious establishment.
"Unfortunately, recently ugly slogans have been chanted and the image of the late imam was defiled," he said, in reference to a poster of Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that was set ablaze last week under disputed circumstances. "The imam is the identity card of the revolution."
He also urged government supporters to "keep the atmosphere quiet" and avoid provoking further unrest.
Several thousand government supporters took to the streets of the capital Friday to protest the alleged desecration of Khomeini's image. They carried banners and chanted slogans against the United States, Israel and Khamenei's opponents.
Supporters of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi had applied for a permit to hold a separate rally to condemn the defiling of Khomeini's picture but did not get a response, reformist websites reported.
Available at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-iran-nukes19-2009dec19,0,7352777.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+latimes/mostviewed+(L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories)
2. Seized North Korean Weapons Were Bound for Iran: Report
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A planeload of weapons from North Korea seized in Bangkok this month was bound for Iran, a newspaper report said Monday, citing documents obtained by arms trafficking experts.
US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair had said last week that the 35-tonne cargo, shipped in defiance of UN sanctions on Pyongyang, was bound for an unspecified Middle East destination.
The Wall Street Journal, quoting a flight plan obtained by researchers, said the plane was due to make refuelling stops in Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine before unloading in Tehran.
The paper said its new information came from a joint draft report by analysts at Chicago-based TransArms and the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) in Antwerp.
Thai officials said they impounded the Ilyushin-76 on a US tip-off after it landed to refuel at a Bangkok airport on December 11 with its cargo which included shoulder-launched missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.
The Belarussian pilot and four Kazakh crew have been arrested.
Thai officials said the aircraft flew to Pyongyang via Bangkok two weeks ago to collect the cargo, then returned to Bangkok to refuel on December 11.
The plane's crew have said they believed they were carrying oil drilling equipment. The Journal quoted one researcher as saying the crew may indeed have been in the dark, given that flight documents obtained by Transarms and IPIS stated the cargo was "oil industry spare parts."
Organisers of the shipment appeared to have taken great pains to hide their identities, using a variety of companies, the Journal said.
The plane is registered to a Georgia company called Air West which on November 5 leased it to another firm, New Zealand-registered SP Trading, itself apparently a shell company, the Journal said.
In another contract dated December 4, it said, SP Trading leased the plane to a Hong Kong-based company.
The Journal said the Hong Kong company is owned by a second Hong Kong firm, which in turn is owned by a third firm based in the British Virgin Islands, according to company registration documents.
"These companies appear to have organised the cargo," it said.
The plane is actually owned by Overseas Cargo FZE, a company based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, the newspaper cited the researchers' draft report as saying.
It said the company's sole listed shareholder, who gives an address in Kazakhstan, refused comment when asked about the aircraft's seizure.
The United Nations banned all North Korean arms exports in a tougher resolution passed in June following its latest missile and nuclear tests.
The Bangkok case is believed to be the first airborne arms cargo from Pyongyang to have been seized since then.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ha3ZLuLtzNCw52KhZ1pzaIZV2cxA
3. South Korea Affirms North Korea Unable to Miniaturize Nukes
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea said Monday North Korea has yet to obtain the technology to miniaturize nuclear bombs, allaying concerns sparked by reports that Pyongyang is developing the ability to tip its missiles with nuclear warheads.
"There have been no substantial information or conclusive tips" to indicate the North has developed the capability to mount nuclear warheads on missiles, said Won Tae-jae, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests since 2006, including one in May this year. But South Korean and the U.S. -- which refuse to classify the communist state as a nuclear state -- have dismissed the likelihood of the North being capable of mounting nuclear devices on its missiles.
On Sunday, the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses, a state-run defense think tank, reportedly concluded that the North may soon become capable of successfully producing a small nuclear warhead.
Won said the reports amount to general assumptions and that South Korea keeps close tabs on activities by the North to develop the technology, which would drive up Pyongyang's capability to threaten neighbors and its bargaining power in nuclear negotiations.
"We're tracking and scrutinizing the North" concerning its efforts to enhance its arms delivery capabilities," he told reporters.
In April, North Korea launched a rocket that experts say could easily be converted into a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S.
The launch, followed by the second nuclear blast, drew U.N. sanctions tougher than those imposed when North Korea conducted its first atomic test in October 2006.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2009/12/21/42/0401000000AEN20091221003400315F.HTML
4. US Trying to Coax North Korea Back to Nuclear Talks
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The Obama administration's short-term goal is to get North Korea back to the so-called, six-party talks. Its long-term aim is to have North Korea give ups its nuclear weapons program.
Since 2003, Washington has been trying to persuade North Korea to eliminate its nuclear weapons capabilities. That effort has been conducted through the negotiating forum known as the six-party talks, bringing together the United States, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea.
Pyongyang withdrew from the talks last April after the international community condemned its testing of a long-range ballistic missile. It also expelled international inspectors and restarted its plutonium factory. And in May, North Korea tested its second nuclear device.
But during the past few months, Pyongyang has sent signals indicating it may be willing to rejoin the six-party talks. This led to the recent visit to Pyongyang by the U.S. envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth - the first high-level contact between Pyongyang and the Obama administration.
Addressing reporters following his trip, Bosworth said North Korea indicated it may return to the negotiating table. And he said Pyongyang also agreed to abide in principle by the 2005 accord that calls on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program in return for security, economic and energy benefits.
U.S. special envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth speaks to reporters in Beijing, 12 Dec 2009 "They have agreed as to the importance of the six-party process," he said. "They've indicated they would like to resume the six-party process. They have agreed on the essential nature of the joint statement of 2005. The other participants in the process see the situation in the same way. We all want to get back to the negotiating table. But when and how that might come about is something I just can't answer right now."
Former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger says the international community must act forcefully with North Korea.
"…making it very clear to the North Koreans that if they don't come back to the table and if they aren't reasonable, they are going to pay a price for it, potentially at least that we will use force to make our views known. There are ways in which we can do that, but we're not going to do that. And it probably wouldn't have international support if we did. So I doubt very much that this administration would be willing to go to the use of force against the North Koreans," he said.
Eagleburger says the U.S. can try to persuade the North Koreans to come back to the negotiating table.
"What is it we expect to get out of the six-party talks? And I'm not at all sure that we know anymore," he added. "The whole purpose of those talks, to begin with, was to prevent them from going in the nuclear direction. Well they not only went in the direction, but they ended up successfully [doing so]."
Many analysts say the road to an agreement with North Korea goes through China - Pyongyang's staunchest ally and greatest source of support in the international community.
But former CIA director and secretary of defense James Schlesinger questions whether Beijing is willing to be tough with Pyongyang.
"If the Chinese were prepared, seriously, to crack down and seriously to engage in sanctions, I think that that would change things," he noted. "But the Chinese have a higher priority, which is to preserve stability in the Korean peninsula and in particular to see to it that the North Korean regime does not collapse. They are fearful, among other things, of a wave of refugees coming over the Chinese border. And they are fearful of a unified Korea. And as a result, the Chinese say everything must proceed by negotiations and it's not clear that they are willing seriously to consider major sanctions against North Korea."
But former National Security Adviser General Brent Scowcroft sees encouraging signs.
"The United States and China are now working closely together with respect to North Korea, and I think that gives us the best opportunity for a solution," he said. "The Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiaobao, was there a couple of weeks or so. Now Steve Bosworth has been there. I think we are working together to, if you will, box the North Koreans in so that we have a better chance to get them back on the course of dismantling their nuclear facilities."
Many analysts say the ball is now in North Korea's court. Since Pyongyang has indicated its willingness to resume the six-party talks process, experts say the next step is to set a date.
Available at: http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/asia/Obama-Administration-Trying-to-Coax-N-Korea-Back-to-Nuclear-Talks-79722812.html
1. Owners of Nuclear Weapons Have Left the NPT Dead: Larijani
ISN Security Watch
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Iran’s Parliament Speaker said nuclear weapon possessor countries have left the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) dead.
“We must accept that the recent developments have left the NPT dead and the main factors are countries including the US, Israel and those who have nuclear weapons,” he said at a press conference in Cairo.
“The NPT must seek disarmament in the world but has not had any effect in this regard, Israel does not pay attention to the IAEA and NPT at all and increases its nuclear warheads, so do the US and other counties,” he added.
He IAEA must help countries that seek peaceful nuclear activities but it only prevents other countries from having peaceful nuclear technology, he said and added “the IAEA behavior over Iran’s nuclear dossier over recent years was a nail in NPT’s coffin.” The agency announced loudly that it will bother countries like Iran that accept the NPT’s terms, he noted.
Asked about currents that disagree with expansion of ties between Iran and Egypt, he said there is no doubt that the two countries are influential in the region and they must get closer, but added that there is no doubt also that Israel is never interested in promotion of the two countries’ ties.
He then hoped the negotiations and comings and goings Iran and Egypt would pave the way for relations of the two Muslim countries.
Also asked about Israel’s threats to attack Iran, he noted, it is unlikely that the Zionist regime has the capability to do such foolish measure.
“They have examined themselves in face of Hamas and Hezbollah and we deem no importance for their screaming because it is mostly out of fear.”
Meanwhile, regarding Iran and Iraq’s ties considering the recent reports on Fakka joint oil well he said, the two sides have very close and friendly ties and border issues will never create a problem in their relations.
Available at: http://www.isna.ir/ISNA/NewsView.aspx?ID=News-1461040&Lang=E
2. Russia, U.S. Plan Unprecedented Nuclear Cut-Lavrov
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Russia and the United States plan unprecedented cuts to their Cold War arsenals of nuclear weapons under a new arms reduction deal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
The two largest nuclear powers have been trying to find a replacement for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which led to the biggest reduction in nuclear weapons in history, but have so far failed to reach a deal.
"The treaty will stipulate a radical and unprecedented reduction in strategic offensive weapons," Lavrov was quoted as saying by the state-owned RIA news agency.
Cutting the vast arsenals of nuclear weapons built during the Cold War is the centrepiece of U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts to "reset" relations with Russia, which the United States is pressing to offer more help on Afghanistan and Iran.
Russia and the United States failed to agree on a successor to START I by December 5, when the treaty was due to expire, and have extended it as they search for a new agreement.
Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev failed to clinch a deal when they met on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen last week. No reason was given, although they said they were close to an agreement.
Under a preliminary understanding agreed by the two presidents in July, the new treaty will reduce operationally deployed nuclear warheads to between at least 1,500 and 1,675, a cut of about one-third from current levels.
Lavrov, whose ministry is leading talks along with the U.S. State Department, said negotiations in Geneva would resolve remaining issues after the Christmas and New Year holidays.
"The delegations will resolve the remaining questions after the New Year break," Lavrov was quoted as saying by RIA during on a visit to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.
The talks in Geneva have been held in secret and both sides have agreed to a news blackout, although tension spilt into the open last week when Lavrov accused U.S. negotiators of dragging their feet. This was denied by U.S. officials.
The negotiators have been discussing an array of technical arms control issues as they seek a deal which analysts say could pave the way for more ambitious talks aimed at cutting thousands of non-deployed nuclear warheads and shorter-range tactical nuclear warheads.
For a new START accord, Russia has called for cheaper verification procedures -- jargon for the inspections and data exchanges that ensure each side is implementing cuts.
Moscow has been concerned about a new generation of non-nuclear weapons with the destructive capability of some atomic weapons. Lavrov said on Tuesday the two types of weapon would be formally linked in a new treaty.
"The links between strategic offensive weapons with a nuclear and non-nuclear potential will be fixed in the new treaty," Lavrov said, according to Interfax.
Available at: http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE5BL0X420091222
1. China to Launch 2-3 Westinghouse Nuclear Projects -Media
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China will start building another "two or three" third-generation Westinghouse nuclear reactors by the end of next year once they have been approved by the government, the China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday.
The newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said the AP1000 reactor projects would also be the first to be built in the country's interior provinces, with central China's Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi likely candidates. All of China's existing reactors are located along the eastern coast.
China signed an agreement with Westinghouse Electric in 2006 to build four AP1000 reactors in the coastal provinces of Shandong and Zhejiang.
The U.S.-based company, owned by Toshiba Corp (6502.T), won the projects after agreeing a technology transfer deal that would make the untested AP1000 technology the basis for China's own-brand third-generation reactor.
Two third-generation reactors, designed by France's Areva CEPFI.PA, are also being constructed in southeast China's Guangdong province.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTOE5BL03R20091222?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=technology-media-telco-SP&rpc=401
For nearly 30 years, no nukes were good nukes in this Scandinavian nation. Spooked by the meltdown at Three Mile Island, Swedes voted decisively in 1980 to ban expansion of nuclear power, and lawmakers pledged to close down all of Sweden's reactors by 2010.
Many here were therefore stunned this year when the government announced a sudden U-turn in energy policy. Not only should the country's 10 nuclear power stations stay open, officials said, but the plants should be allowed to buy new reactors to replace the old ones if necessary.
Enabling legislation is to be introduced in the Swedish parliament within months, part of a remarkable renaissance underway across Europe for a technology that was unloved and criticized for years.
The comeback is the result of the continent's struggle to meet rising energy demands while reducing carbon emissions. With fossil fuels such as coal falling into disrepute, policymakers say nuclear power must be part of the formula for keeping the lights on.
In Finland, the world's largest nuclear power station is under construction. Poland wants to install two on the shores of the Baltic Sea, with the first on line by the end of 2020. Italy, the only major industrialized nation without a nuclear plant, says it will start building one or more by 2013.
In Britain, the government has approved 10 sites for nuclear stations. And Germany wants to extend the life of its plants rather than phase them out, as promised.
New realities have scrambled traditional lines of debate. Some environmental activists who were once dead set against nuclear energy have moderated their position to one of grudging acceptance, viewing it as the lesser of two evils in light of global warming.
Opposition among the general public, which peaked after the accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, has also declined in many European countries as memories of the disasters recede, safety improves, and electricity consumption gallops along.
Whether all the planned stations will get built, though, is another story. New plants are extremely expensive and take at least 10 years to construct.
In Finland, it hasn't. Major delays and cost overruns have plagued the highly touted next-generation reactor being built for the new plant.
And there are still plenty of detractors who say that the problem of storing nuclear waste -- which remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years -- has yet to be adequately solved. Critics say officials have fallen back too quickly on nuclear power when they should be investing more money and effort in developing renewable-energy sources, smart grids and electricity-maximizing measures.
"You have to get energy use in focus -- to decrease energy dependence as much as possible and increase energy efficiency," said Per Bolund, a Green Party member of the Swedish parliament. The Swedish government has opted instead to "think of nuclear as the easy answer."
About half of Sweden's electricity supply comes from 10 nuclear stations strung along the southern coast. Ola Altera, deputy energy minister, said the goal of the about-face isn't to increase that proportion but rather to keep nuclear power in the mix as alternative energy sources come online.
"The idea is not to get more dependent on nuclear," Altera said. "To the contrary: It's to make us more diversified."
Altera's Center Party was instrumental in enabling the policy reversal in February.
A member of the ruling coalition, the Center Party had historically been staunchly antinuclear and helped spark the national debate that eventually led to the 1980 referendum. But some party leaders began shifting their stance a few years ago, arguing that combating climate change was more important than decommissioning nuclear reactors.
Even so, the abandonment of the party's previous opposition shocked many observers.
"I'm doing this for the sake of my children and grandchildren," the Center Party leader, Maud Olofsson, said in February. "I can live with the fact that nuclear power will be part of our electricity supply system for the foreseeable future."
Altera said polls have shown that a majority of Swedes now accept nuclear power as a fact of their country's energy supply.
Ludvig Tillman, a researcher on nuclear issues with Greenpeace, doesn't dispute that. But such a statement tells only part of the story, he said. When people are asked which energy sources they prefer, the vast majority pick renewable sources such as wind, solar and biofuels; the nuclear option scores extremely low.
Moreover, the threat of disaster still hangs over the nuclear industry.
In 2006, the power went out at a plant in Forsmark, and two of the plant's backup generators failed to kick in. Had the remaining pair of backups also failed, the plant's cooling system would have stalled, and a disastrous core meltdown could have resulted.
"It's basically luck that we did not have a very serious accident," Tillman said. "I don't think anyone sees nuclear as a true sustainable power source. It's just something we need to have in between."
The choice set up by some politicians -- nuclear power versus more carbon emissions -- is a false one, Tillman said. Sweden has virtually eliminated the use of fossil fuels for electricity; nuclear energy, hydropower and, to a smaller extent, wind power account for the entire power supply.
Fossil fuels do contribute to heating, but only about 10%, and that is supposed to be eased out by 2020, Altera said. No one is seriously advocating the construction of coal-fired plants.
Environmentalists say that if any country should be exploiting the potential of renewable energy, it's Sweden.
Blessed with rivers for hydropower, plenty of gusty areas for harnessing the wind and vast expanses of forest for biomass, Sweden could gradually close down its nuclear plants and make up for their loss purely through alternative energy sources, activists say.
That, along with increased investment in improving energy efficiency, would make a nuclear-free Sweden an achievable goal.
"We have potential for producing large amounts of renewable energy which can't be produced anywhere else," said Bolund, the member of parliament. "Right now, we have to decide what energy future we want in Sweden, whether we want to be dependent on nuclear power or use the fantastic potential for renewable power we have."
Available at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-sweden-nuclear20-2009dec20,0,5613216.story
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