The European Union’s (EU) Catherine Ashton is scheduled to speak with her Iranian counterpart with a view to further talks on Tehran’s controversial nuclear developments.
Ashton, who is the EU’s foreign policy chief, is also leading western efforts to negotiate with Iran over their nuclear programme. Her office announced yesterday that “[There will be] phone contact between the High Representative [Ashton] and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Dr. Jalili in order to discuss the next steps in our negotiations.” It will be the first contact between the two sides since EU governments voted to impose a new set of sanctions on Iran earlier this month. Visiting Israel yesterday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said that the European sanctions were “inflicting the pain” on Iran and proving to be effective.
However, a Reuters report claims that the Iranian nuclear programme has taken a step forward which will likely concern the international community. Apparently, work has almost finished on installing centrifuges into the Fordow nuclear plant, boosting capacity to produce weapons-grade uranium. There is particular concern about the Fordow plant, built into the side of a mountain, as uranium there is thought to be refined to a fissile concentration of 20 per cent.
According to the report, some Western diplomats believe that the last 640 of some 2,800 centrifuges at Fordow have recently been installed, although they have yet to be operated. One diplomat is quoted saying, “I understand that they have installed all the centrifuges there,” while another added that piping and other necessary equipment has yet to be added to make them operational.