The New York Times reported today that the Obama administration and its European allies plan to demand the immediate closing of Fordo uranium enrichment facility at their upcoming talks with Iran. Fordo’s construction was recently completed under a mountain near the city of Qom. The facility is set up to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity. The US and the EU will be also calling for a halt in the production of uranium fuel at that level of purity.
In the past two years, the two sides had explored the idea of a nuclear fuel swap whereby Iran would swap some of its 5 percent-enriched uranium for 20-percent fuel needed for its research reactor in Tehran. The deal ultimately failed after the conservatives in Iran refused to go along with it. The new US and EU proposal, as reported by the Times, could be a variation of the fuel swap proposal, guaranteeing Iran the supply of 20-percent fuel needed for research but forcing it to close its new fuel production facility at Fordo.
As tough as the new demands might appear, they actually represent a softening of the current UN resolutions demanding Iran to give up its enrichment program altogether and is indeed a recognition of Iran’s right to establish its own civilan nuclear program.
President Obama has characterized the upcoming talks as Iran’s “last chance” to resolve the nuclear impasse diplomatically. The US and EU are believed to think that the tightening financial sanctions against Iran and the EU oil embargo that would go into full effect on 1 July might force the Iranians to make a politically painful compromise and accept their proposal.
“We have no idea how the Iranians will react,” a senior administration official told the Times. “We probably won’t know after the first meeting.” But the next round of oil sanctions, he noted, kicks in early this summer [The New York Times, 8 April].