Friday, October 02, 2009

Iran agrees to send uranium abroad after talks breakthrough.

After years of the Bush regime demanding that Iran stop spinning it's centrifuges before negotiations can take place, the new Obama policy of simply talking to Iran appears to be yielding results.

Iran agreed in principle today to export much of its stock of enriched uranium for processing and to open its newly revealed enrichment plant to UN inspections within a fortnight.

The agreements, struck at negotiations in Geneva with six major powers, represented the most significant progress in talks with Tehran in more than three years, and offered hope that the nuclear crisis could be defused, at least temporarily.

Western officials cautioned that the preliminary agreements could unravel in negotiations over the details. But if the deals are completed, it will push back the looming threat of further sanctions and possible military action.

I have been critical of the way the Obama administration made such a big deal out of the plant at Qom, which I thought was overly dramatic, but the end result is the end result, and that's not to be sniffled at.

Obama's approach appears to be succeeding, which is nothing short of jaw dropping after decades of distrust between these two nations.

A full day of talks in a lakeside villa just outside Geneva included the most senior and substantive bilateral meeting between an American and an Iranian official for three decades. At a lunchtime break in the proceedings, the US delegate, William Burns, took aside Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, for a one-to-one chat that lasted 40 minutes.

At the end of the negotiations, the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, on behalf of the six-nation group – known as the E3+3 and consisting of Britain, France, Germany, the US, Russia and China – said the meeting "represented the start of what we hope will be an intensive process".

The most concrete, and potentially most significant, gain from the Geneva talks was an agreement in principle that Iran would send a significant quantity of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) for further enriching and processing in Russia and France respectively, so that it could be used as fuel in its research reactor in Tehran, which makes isotopes for medical uses. President Barack Obama said yesterday: "Taking the step of transferring its low-enriched uranium to a third country would be a step towards building confidence that Iran's programme is peaceful."

If Iran agree to allow a third nation to process it's uranium from below 5% purity to 20%, then it would be highly unlikely that Iran could ever use such uranium for a nuclear weapon. So, the entire question of Iran wanting to build a nuclear bomb could be answered in the negative.

Obviously we must be cautious, Iran needs to take these steps rather than simply promise that it will do these things, but the signs so far are incredibly positive.

I wonder what Joe Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu will do now? How will they manage to find a negative in the midst of such a positive outcome? Will they attack Obama's naivete? How soon before they argue that other sites must exist for the real task of building the bomb?

They have viewed Iran as evil for over three decades, and it simply doesn't suit their purposes for Iran to be behaving so sensibly, so I can only imagine where they are going to go from here.

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