Washington, May 25 - Iran may be enriching uranium up to 27 percent purity at its underground facility, bringing the Islamic Republic another step closer to developing a nuclear weapon, officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency have told reporters.
The AP quoted diplomats who said that traces of the higher enrichmenthad been discovered at the Fordo plant. The higher quality enrichment, which Iran was not previously known to possess, means that Iran could significantly speed production to 90 percent, the level needed to make nuclear weapons.
Iran is known to have enriched to 20 percent largely at the Fordo site, which was constructed underground to defend against possible air attack. The plant was secret until western intelligence agencies exposed its existence in 2009.
The traces of 27 percent grade could possibly be the result of accidental over-enrichment, the diplomats cautioned. Iran has acknowledged enriching uranium to 20 percent.
The international community just concluded two days of talks in Baghdad with Iranian envoys in an effort to persuade them to halt that level of enrichment. The talks ended unsuccessfully though the parties agreed to meet again in Moscow next month. Israeli officials said the outcome buys Iran more time to continue its military efforts.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said that “significant differences remain” in negotiations between Iran and the six major powers that constitute the P5+1: Russia, China, France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.
“The E3+3 remain firm, clear and united in seeking a swift diplomatic resolution of the international community's concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program,” she said after talks concluded. “We expect Iran to take concrete and practical steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community, to build confidence and to meet its international obligations.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said all international sanctions would remain in place to keep the pressure on Iran. “As we lay the groundwork for these talks, we will keep up the pressure as part of our dual-track approach. All of our sanctions will remain in place and continue to move forward during this period,” she said.
Jerusalem, May 17 – Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas appointed nine new cabinet ministers, but appears to be no closer to either returning to peace talks with Israel or achieving a reconciliation deal with rival Hamas.
The biggest move was the appointment of a political independent, former university president Nabil Qassis, to the finance portfolio relieving Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who had held both positions and remains as prime minister.
The Iran-backed Hamas terrorist group, which rejects the peace process with Israel, condemned the cabinet appointments, saying the move “reflects an insistence on misconduct and maintenance of illegitimacy and disagreement,” the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
Both the peace process and Palestinian politics have been stymied by the 2006 election results in which Hamas won a majority. The following year Hamas staged a military coup and seized power in Gaza from Abbas’ Fatah party. An Associated Press report said the cabinet shuffle was “a clear sign that efforts to end the Palestinian political split are stuck.”
Despite reaching a reconciliation agreement on paper last year, Abbas has failed to form a unity government with Hamas. The Palestinian leader has also rebuffed repeated calls by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume direct peace talks without preconditions.
Israel’s Ma'ariv newspaper commented on the peace process with the Palestinians, saying the Israeli media is too uncritical of Palestinian Authority President Abbas' “continuing refusal to enter into any kind of dialogue.” The editorial went on to say that “Netanyahu needs to be a little flexible but, at the same time, Abbas also needs to be flexible," and warned that “as long as we do not criticize Abbas’ refusal, we are – in effect – encouraging him to dig in rather than compromise.”
Washington, Oct. 12 - The United States will use a foiled Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington to argue for tighter international sanctions against Iran, Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have said.
"It's critically important that we unite the world in the isolation of and dealing with the Iranians," Vice-President Joseph Biden said on CBS "The Early Show" on CBS Wednesday.
“This really, in the minds of many diplomats and government officials,crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.
Clinton said the U.S. will use the case to “enlist more countries in working together against what is becoming a clearer and clearer threat” from Iran. “We want to reassure our friends that the complaints against Iran are well-founded.”
According to charges laid out by Attorney General Eric Holder, two Iranian government agents tried to hire a Mexican drug cartel to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir at a restaurant in Washington, DC. Sources speaking to major news outlets have also confirmed that the plot also targeted Israel’s embassy in Washington, as well as the embassies of Israel and Saudi Arabia in Argentina.
The criminal complaint U.S. v. Arbabsiar which detailed the sophisticated plot was unsealed Tuesday.
Iran has continually defied layers of international sanctions that the U.S. and other major powers have levied against it in a bid to disrupt their illicit nuclear program.
Latin America has recently become a battleground for the enforcement of such measures against Iran. Security experts have been warning for the past several years that Iran has been tightening its relations with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez who is rabidly hostile to the United States. Tehran has been trying to build networks through South and Central America with forces hostile to the West, giving it the potential to use the region as a terrorist or even military base to threaten the United States.
Washington slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil conglomerate PDVSA last May for supporting Iran’s illicit bid for nuclear weapons, charges the company denied. Yet the State Department said that Venezuela delivered at least two cargoes of refined petroleum products worth approximately $50 million to Iran between December 2010 and March 2011.
Secretary Clinton warned in March 2011 that "If there is any evidence that [Venezuela] have violated the sanctions, we will act against them."