Iran says no new fuel swap offer for nuclear talks
Friday, January 21, 2011
* Russia says easing Tehran sanctions should be on agenda
ISTANBUL/MOSCOW: Iranian negotiators said they had no fresh offer to make for a nuclear fuel swap when they meet six world powers today, and Russia said talks should also address prospects for easing sanctions on Tehran.
Expectations of any breakthrough in an eight-year-old stand-off over Iran’s nuclear ambitions were low ahead of a second round of negotiations between Iran and the powers in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Friday and Saturday.
The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV news channel reported on Tuesday Iran would propose a revised version of a deal that was agreed in principle at a 2009 round of talks but then unravelled. But Iranian officials said there were no such plans.
“I haven’t heard about it,” Ali Baqeri, a deputy to Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, told Reuters as the Iranian delegation arrived in Istanbul on Thursday. Another Iranian official said: “There is no new proposal. This is something created by the Western media. Why should we propose such a thing?”
Iran also called on international powers on Thursday to move quickly on fuel swap talks with Tehran, its nuclear envoy told reporters in Moscow. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said “time is passing quickly” and there would be “no reason” for a swap deal after Iran puts its own 20 percent enriched uranium in its Tehran reactor.
“If we can agree on the perspectives for future talks, this will be a good result,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said through a translator at a joint news conference with Turkey’s foreign minister.
“The approach of Russia and the other participants is that the focus of the debate ought to be Iran’s nuclear programme and resolving the unresolved problems in this programme. But this meeting doesn’t have just one topic. Cancelling the sanctions against Iran should also be discussed,” Lavrov said. reuters
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WikiLeaks: Iran ‘has had nuclear weapon-building capability for two years’
Iran gained the technicaly capability to produce highly enriched uranium in sufficient quantities to make nuclear weapons in March 2009, according to US officals.
The leaked diplomatic cables, published by WikiLeaks, published a memorandum of a Vienna meeting in which the US representative said the Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz was capable of enriching uranium stocks into uranium hexafluoride gas in sufficient quantities to make nuclear bombs.
The assessment came just weeks after the International Atomic Energy Agency had concluded that Iran had enriched just over one tonne of uranium to a threshhold level of enrichment and needed just half a tonne more to be ready to manufacture an initial warhead.
It said: “Iran had now demonstrated centrifuge operations such that it had the technical ability to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) if it so chose”.
The remarks were made at a meeting hosted by Simon Smith, the British ambassador, at which diplomats discussed a containment strategy to slow down Iran’s progress to nuclear capacity.
British officials were reported to have predicted that Iran’s scientists would have accumulated 20 tonnes of the material, enough for more than a dozen weapons by 2014.
Since the meeting, Iran’s nuclear programme has suffered significant setbacks after computer networks at its facilities were infected by the Stuxnet virus. The virus targets the operating system of sophisticated rotors, varying the speed of the devices thus making them unstable and ultimately unless.
Experts have estimated that more than half of Iran’s enrichment centrifuges have since been sabotaged or fallen into disrepair.
The US report matched the assessment given by Denis Blair, the US intelligence chief, at a Congressional session in the same month.
At the same meeting France warned that Iran could attempt to obtain uranium yellowcake, the raw material for nuclear fuel and weapons, from Congo.
The cables also revealed worldwide efforts to cut off Iran’s access to highly engineered steel and carbon fibre products needed to manufacture more sophisticated centrifuges.
NY Times: Stuxnet was a US-Israeli effort to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program
20 January 2011
The Stuxnet worm was an Israeli-US project developed at the highly secretive Israeli Dimona complex in the Negev desert to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, according to a report in the New York Times.
US and Israel researchers developed the worm at the facility and tested it on nuclear centrifuges identical to centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility that was attacked by Stuxnet, the paper said.
Stuxnet development began in 2008 when Siemens cooperated with the Idaho National Laboratory to identify vulnerabilities in the company’s controllers that operate nuclear centrifuges and other industrial processes. A briefing about the findings was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security for US officials. The implication from the story is that this briefing was used by the Israelis, with US help, to develop the Stuxnet worm at Dimona.
Siemens controllers headed for Iran were detained by the United Arab Emirates in April 2009 at the request of the US State Department, according to WikiLeaks documents cited by the paper. A few months after that, the Stuxnet worm began appearing around the globe. The implication, from the report, is that the Stuxnet worm was loaded onto the controllers while they were detained in the UAE.
The Stuxnet worm has two components. One component attacks the centrifuges and the other records what normal operations look like and plays those readings back to plant operators so that they are unaware of any problems.
Although Iranian official have said the Natanz facility sustained only minor damage, US and Israel officials cited by the newspaper estimate the worm has set back the Iranian nuclear program five years or more. An independent assessment by the Institute for Science and International Security estimated that the worm took out around 1000 centrifuges at Natanz.