Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, has reiterated statements made by Mohammad Javad Larijani in March regarding key concessions Iran is prepared to make in return for cooperation from the West. Reports ABC News:
Fereidoon Abbasi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, told state television on Sunday that Iran doesn’t need uranium enriched above the 20 percent level needed for the Tehran research reactor which produces medical isotopes. Once there’s enough supply, he said, enrichment could be dropped it to the 3.5 percent level needed for nuclear power (weapons-grade uranium is more than 90 percent enriched).
“Based on our needs and once the required fuel is obtained, we will decrease the production and we may even totally shift it to the 3.5 percent,” Abbasi said, according to Iran’s Press TV.
“We are going to produce and store [20 percent enriched uranium] to some extent in order to provide fuel for Tehran’s [research] reactor for a few years or to predict fuel needs of another research reactor,” he said.
Iran’s comments are being interpreted as “mixed signals” by several mainstream outlets (aside from this Associated Press article) because of Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s statement over the weekend that setting conditions prior to talks is “completely meaningless“. On Saturday, the New York Times reported on U.S. “demands” which include an enhanced focus on Iran’s Fordow uranium enrichment facility. The piece included this interesting side note:
The outcome of the talks — or their breakdown — could well determine whether Washington will be able to quiet Israeli threats that it could take military action this year. But talking with Iran’s leaders also carries considerable political risk for Mr. Obama, with Iran emerging as one of the few major foreign policy issues in the presidential campaign.
Paul Pillar responds to the Times report in the National Interest:
We ought to hope that the description in a New York Times report of the U.S. position going into negotiations with Iran about nuclear activities does not fairly represent what U.S. and other Western negotiators will bring to the table. Perhaps we can take heart in the absence of a good reason to expect that leaks to journalists of negotiating positions will be complete and entirely accurate. Leaks, after all, are designed for various audiences, and not necessarily the one that will be faced across the conference table. Nonetheless, it is disturbing to read of an approach that probably would diminish rather than enhance the prospects for movement toward an agreement that satisfies Western interests. The lede of the Times story is that the Obama administration and its European partners will open the talks by “demanding the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling” of Iran’s uranium-enrichment facility at Fordo. This is the newer of two such Iranian facilities and the one that—because it was constructed, no doubt at substantially higher cost, inside a mountain—is relatively less vulnerable to armed attack. This demand echoes Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak’s recent singling out, amid more talk by Barak in the same interview about possibly resorting to military force, of closure of Fordo as a key Israeli objective.