U.S. seeks direct meeting with Iran over nuclear program

Click photo to download. Caption: The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. Credit: Nanking2012/Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) American officials have announced that they are seeking to meet directly with Iranian officials during this week’s nuclear talks in Kazakhstan amid further proof that Iran is advancing its nuclear program, the Wall Street Journal reported.

U.S. and European officials hope that additional diplomatic overtures can create a fissure within Iran’s leadership ahead of its presidential election in June. Several Iranian leaders have spoken out in favor of direct talks with the U.S, but it is unclear whether Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would agree. Khamenei said recently in a speech that he is against talks.

“If Iran says yes, that would be great,” a European official told the Wall Street Journal. “If not, we think they’ll be more isolated.”

Talks are scheduled this week in Almaty, Kazakhstan between Iran and the group known as P5+1—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

According to the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) quarterly report released this week, Iran has continued advancing its nuclear program, despite earlier diplomatic efforts. Iran installed 180 advanced IR-2m centrifuge machines at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.

“The advance is significant both in terms of technology and timing. The IR-2m centrifuges can enrich three to five times faster than the outmoded machines now being used at Natanz,” the Associated Press reported.

American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said in a statement Friday, “Let’s be clear: Iran’s nuclear program is a clear and present threat to regional and global security. It must be confronted with the strongest possible sanctions and political isolation, while leaving all options credibly—and we underscore the word credibly—on the table. Tehran’s blatant lack of cooperation demands maximum unity among the world powers coming to Kazakhstan.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said the report on Natanz was “very serious” and “proves that Iran is continuing to advance rapidly toward the red line I drew,” in a reference to the diagram he presented during his speech last September at the UN General Assembly.

“Iran is closer than ever to obtaining enough enriched material for a nuclear bomb,” Netanyahu said.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is visiting Israel next month, has so far maintained that there remains time for diplomacy and sanctions to solve the Iranian nuclear issue, resisting Netanyahu’s call for a red line which, if crossed, would prompt American military action against the Islamic Republic.

Posted on February 21, 2013 .