Iran's nuclear chief has hinted that the Islamic Republic may offer a compromise ahead of negotiations with world powers this week over the country's controversial nuclear program.
At the core of the dispute is the issue of uranium enrichment. The West fears Tehran is seeking an atomic weapon, which the country denies. Uranium has to be enriched to more than 90 percent to be used for a nuclear weapon.
Iran's nuclear chief Fereidoun Abbasi told state TV late Sunday thatTehran could stop its production of 20 percent enriched uranium needed for a research reactor, and continue enriching uranium to lower levels for power generation.
This could take place once Iran has stock piled enough of the 20 percent enriched uranium, Abbasi said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak seem at odds over the severity of the demands that the six Western superpowers should present to Iran in negotiations over its nuclear program, which are scheduled to get underway on Saturday in Istanbul.
Netanyahu supports a demand to completely halt all uranium enrichment and remove all enriched material from Iran, while Barak is in favor of allowing the Iranians to continue enriching uranium to a low level and for several hundred kilograms of enriched uranium to remain in Iran.
In two separate statements made on Sunday, Netanyahu and Barak presented what they described as "Israel's position" on dialogue between Iran and the six superpowers. However, the statements contained several contradictions on core issues.
In contradiction to Netanyahu's statement, a statement released by Barak called for demanding that the Iranians remove all enriched uranium from the state "aside from a quantity of several hundred kilograms, which would not allow for the continued enrichment for weapons or a nuclear facility."
Barak presented two additional demands, beyond those presented by Netanyahu, including IAEA supervision over all Iranian nuclear activity and full disclosure of the history and the activity in important areas that belong to its military nuclear project. Barak also noted that, in exchange, the Iranians could receive fuel rods for the nuclear facility in Tehran.
Netanyahu said in a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti that the superpowers much demand a complete end to all uranium enrichment by Iran.
Netanyahu voiced skepticism on Sunday over talks with Iran, scheduled to begin in Istanbul on Saturday between the six Western powers and Tehran.
In a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in his Caesarea home, Netanyahu said that Israel will follow the talks closely "since Iran is using them to delay and deceive."
Netanyahu emphasized that Israel's stance over what the West should demand vis--vis Tehran's nuclear program has not changed. He reiterated the three demands he made during his visit in Canada last month – that Iran dismantle a nuclear facility near the city of Qom, complete halt uranium enrichment and remove all material enriched above 3.5 percent from the country.
Netanyahu's comments come as the U.S. media reported that President Barack Obama said he intends to present Tehran with a number of conditions. According to the New York Times, the U.S. presented Iran with similar conditions to those of Netanyahu – closing the facility in Qom, stopping uranium enrichment and transferring enriched uranium out of Iran. In return, the Iranians would be able to use nuclear technology for civilian use such as energy and medicine.
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