The New York Times reports:
As Iran’s foreign minister met with the chief of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency here, the United States and Germany rejected Iran’s assertion that it was close to accepting an international compromise on its nuclear program.
Western officials expressed deep skepticism toward Tehran’s contention that a deal was close for having uranium enriched abroad for Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, said that the Iranians presented no new proposal or counterproposal during a meeting on the sidelines of a security conference here Saturday.
“Dialogue is continuing,” Mr. Amano said. “It should be accelerated. That’s the point.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that actions by Iranian leaders did not back up their conciliatory public statements. “Based on the information that I have, I don’t have the sense we are close to an agreement,” he said at the conclusion of talks with Turkish leaders in Ankara.
Julian Borger adds:
The Tehran government has a gift for the theatrical. The arrival of the foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, at the Munich Security Conference was confirmed at the very last moment, and since he got here, Mottaki has held it in the palm of his hand. On Friday night he claimed a deal on Iran’s uranium was close, but then added that it was up to Iran to decide how much of its enriched uranium would be included in the deal. Jam tomorrow, but perhaps not very much.
Today, Mottaki elaborated on his theme at some length, without saying a whole lot more. Asked whether Iran was still willing to export the 1200 kg of low enriched uranium (LEU) provisionally agreed in Geneva last October, he slipped into the opaque language of the bazaar.
It is very common in business, for the buyer to talk about the quantity, while the seller only offers the price. We determine the quantity on the basis of our needs, and we will inform the [international] bodies about our requirements. Maybe it is less than this quantity you have already mentioned [1200kg] or maybe a little more than that quantity that we may need for our reactor.
Mottaki also said that Iran’s nuclear experts had studied the time interval it would take to turn Iranian LEU into 20% enriched uranium in the form of fuel rods, and endorsed that interval. The talk in Geneva was that this would take a year. A few days ago in a television interview, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talked of four to five months. Mottaki did not make it clear which time-scale he was talking about.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
An Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program will neither completely stop Teheran’s nuclear march, nor bring down the ayatollahs’ regime, according to former Swiss ambassador to Iran Tim Guldimann.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on the sidelines of this week’s Herzliya Conference, Guldimann, who knows the Iranian way of thinking well, expressed – as a personal opinion – his deep concern about the military option against Iran.
Guldimann was Swiss ambassador to Iran and Afghanistan from 1999 to 2004. As ambassador to Teheran, Guldimann – now senior adviser and head of the Middle East Project at the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, Geneva – represented US interests in Iran, acting as a go-between. He gained notoriety for a memorandum he transmitted to the US in 2003, which posited an alleged Iranian proposal for a broad dialogue with the US, with everything on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian armed groups. The proposal was rejected by the Bush administration.
According to Guldimann, the position that unless the international community stops Iran’s nuclear program, Israel would have to do it alone is based on the unproven assumption that Iran will actually go down the road of having a nuclear weapon at its disposal.
“My understanding is that they will not go as far as that. If you say that there is [in Iran] a clear policy of achieving a nuclear capability, I would fully agree. You can define that as a breakout period. But will they make a political decision to produce a bomb? Such a breakout is an absolutely different question,” he says.
The Washington Post says:
China on Thursday threw a roadblock in the path of a U.S.-led push for sanctions against Iran, saying that it is important to continue negotiations as long as Iran appears willing to consider a deal to give up some of its enriched uranium.
“To talk about sanctions at the moment will complicate the situation and might stand in the way of finding a diplomatic solution,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said at a conference in Paris.
The Guardian reports:
Iran has launched a research rocket carrying a mouse, two turtles and worms into space – showing that the country can defeat the west in the battle of technology and that it will soon send its own astronauts, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saidtoday.
Iranian state television broadcast images of officials placing the animals inside a capsule in the Kavoshgar 3 (explorer in Farsi) rocket before blast-off, although it did not report where or when the launch took place. The Iranian Students News Agency said the capsule had successfully returned to Earth with its “passengers”.
Western powers fear the technology used by Iran’s space programme to launch satellites and research capsules could also be used to build long-range intercontinental missiles. A US defence expert said the launch underlined the closeness of Iran’s space and military programmes.