Israel insists on Iran nuclear programme stoppage

2013-10-27 07:15
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili smiles at a press conference after the talks on Iran's nuclear programme in the Kazakh city of Almaty. (Stanislav Fillipov, AFP)

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili smiles at a press conference after the talks on Iran's nuclear programme in the Kazakh city of Almaty. (Stanislav Fillipov, AFP)

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Jerusalem - Israel on Saturday dismissed as "irrelevant" reports that Iran had halted its most sensitive uranium enrichment activity, and said Tehran's nuclear programme must be dismantled.

A senior member of Iran's parliamentary national security commission was quoted as saying Iran had stopped refining uranium above the 5% required for civilian power stations, as it already had all the 20% enriched fuel it needed for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

But diplomats accredited to the UN nuclear watchdog said they had no confirmation Iran had halted enrichment of uranium to 20% - a sensitive issue because it is a relatively short technical step to increase that to the 90% needed to make a nuclear warhead.

"The discussion on whether or not Iran has ceased 20% enrichment is irrelevant," said an Israeli official.

Israel fears its arch enemy Iran is developing atomic weapons capability, and has hinted it could attack the Islamic republic to prevent it from getting the bomb. Iran says its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

"Even if Iran stopped 20% enrichment, it is still equipped with advanced centrifuges that allow it to go from a level of 3.5% enrichment to a military grade 90% within a few weeks," the official added.

Sanctions

World powers seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute with Iran want it to stop enrichment. Iran indicated in talks that resumed in Geneva last week that it might scale back its programme to win sanctions relief.

Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only atomic power, says Iran must be stripped of enrichment capabilities.

"The international community must ensure the complete dismantling of the Iranian military nuclear programme, and until then sanctions must be stepped up," said the Israeli official.

Western officials have said Iran must stop enriching uranium to 20%, increase the transparency of its nuclear programme, reduce its uranium stocks and take other steps to reassure the world that it is not after nuclear weapons.

Iran and six world powers - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany - said that this month's talks in Geneva were positive and constructive. Negotiations are due to resume there on 7 - 8 November.

The meeting was the first since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to office in August promising to try to resolve the nuclear dispute and secure an easing of sanctions that have severely damaged Iran's oil-dependent economy.

Read more on:    iran  |  israel  |  iran nuclear programme  |  middle east peace
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