Both Iran and Western powers have been articulating their positions ahead of crucial talks between Iran and the P5+1 states scheduled to take place in Istanbul on 14 April. White House spokesman Jay Carney told the press on Monday that stopping Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 20% and addressing activities at the underground Fordo enrichment site “are priorities for us and priorities for the international community.” But he added that, “our bottom line is the cessation of uranium enrichment and the verifiable decision by the regime in Tehran to forego pursuit of a nuclear weapon.” Enrichment to 20% is more than is required for civilian energy and a key stage to producing the 90% enriched uranium required for a bomb. The comments follow a report in the New York Times on Saturday that the US and Europe would demand the dismantling of the Fordow enrichment facility, the shipping out of stockpiles of 20% enriched uranium, and an end to further 20% enrichment.
This position is similar to one articulated by Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak in an interview with CNN over the weekend. Barak said, “We told our American friends, as well as the Europeans, that we would have expected the threshold for successful negotiations to be clear, namely that the P5+1 will demand clearly that – no more enrichment to 20 percent.” However, in interviews with Israeli press to mark the Passover holiday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a tougher line, telling Israel Hayom that a deal should “explicitly order a halt to all uranium enrichment, a removal of all enriched uranium from the country.”
Meanwhile Iran has sent unclear signals about its own position. Ferydoon Abbasi, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation was quoted yesterday as saying that Iran would be prepared to enrich to 20% “just for its own needs” and not beyond that. However also yesterday, Iranian foreign minister Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran would not accept any preconditions ahead of the talks. 20% enriched uranium does have medical uses, but the scale of Iran’s 20% enrichment is already far higher than what is required for its own civilian needs.