Expert Offers Calming Words on Iran Nuclear Program

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My colleague Barbara Slavin writes:

In the wake of last week’s nuclear talks in Baghdad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday blasted the process as a waste of time that is allowing Iran to get closer to nuclear weapons.
But Iran’s progress toward bomb capacity is not as fast as some have feared and there is ample time for more talking, according to David Albright, president and founder of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. Albright told an audience at the Atlantic Council on Tuesday that “the technical clock is not ticking as fast” as the “political clock.” The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on the Iranian nuclear program shows that Iran is still having trouble building more advanced centrifuges than the breakdown-prone P-1 centrifuge, which is based on a Dutch design from the 1970s that was passed to Iran by the Pakistani nuclear black market king A.Q. Khan. Iran also appears to be having difficulty getting materials for the P-1s. Of more than 2,000 centrifuge casings installed earlier this year at the underground Fordow plant near Qom, only a few hundred have had rotor assemblies installed in them, Albright said. Continue reading

Iran Nuclear Talks Wrap Up on Positive Note

Two days of “intense” nuclear talks with Iran ended in Baghdad Thursday with a plan that the parties should meet again in Moscow next month.

Chief international negotiator catherine Ashton announced the next meeting would be held June 18-19th. She described the past two days of discussions with the Iranians in Baghdad as “very intense and detailed.”

“In line with our agreement in Istanbul, the E3+3 laid out clear proposals to address the Iranian nuclear issue and in particular, all aspects of 20 percent enrichment,” Ashton said.

A senior US official said Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and US Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, chatted a few minutes informally Thursday night. “At  the end of today’s plenary, Dr. Jalili approached [Sherman] to chat for a minute or two.”

“There’s a recognition that we are beginning to understand and communicate and talk with each other,” the US official said. “What took some effort today was to get to place where understood some common ground, and our differences.”

“Even given significant differences, there is and this is the important part, common ground,” between the P5+1 and Iran, the senior US administration official said. “There is agreement to deal with all aspects of 20 percent.”

The Iranians had put forward a five-point plan, that included a request to recognize their right to 3.5 percent uranium, Ashton said.