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Iran nuclear deal collapses. Time for US to get tough?

Iran rejected a UN-brokered nuclear deal Wednesday that would have sent its uranium stockpile abroad. The Obama administration is now under pressure to make good on its promises of 'consequences.'

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 19, 2009


Iran's rejection of a nuclear deal with international powers for treatment of its enriched uranium stockpile shifts the focus to the Obama administration. Washington now must lay out the "consequences" it said would result from any Iranian "no" to the negotiated agreement.

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After weeks of hints that the rejection was coming, Tehran said Wednesday it could not accept a draft deal reached Oct. 1 in United Nations-brokered talks between Iranian officials and representatives of the US, France, and Russia.

The deal would have resulted in Iran shipping about 70 percent of its low-enriched uranium stockpile to Russia and France by the end of the year, where it would be further processed into a form usable in a Tehran research reactor.

The deal would have delayed Iran's ability to fuel a nuclear weapon by about a year – and given President Obama breathing room to explore his preference for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions through diplomacy.

But with Tehran's "no" now official, Mr. Obama will be under pressure – domestically from Congress, and diplomatically from partners such as France, Britain, and Israel – to proceed with toughened international economic sanctions.

Obama returns to Washington from an extensive Asia trip Friday with other issues demanding attention – from troop levels for Afghanistan to next week's state visit by Indian Prime minister Manmohan Singh. He had repeatedly suggested he was giving the Iranians until year's end to demonstrate through words and actions a positive response to his offer of engagement.

Iran's decision shortens that diplomatic opening.

Iran's counteroffer

In declining the deal Wednesday, Iran said it would consider other options for its uranium stockpile – provided it remained in the country – and called for a return to talks.

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently said the deal had already been negotiated and could not be reopened or amended.

That approach drew a sharp reaction from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who told an Iranian news service, "Diplomacy is not black or white. Pressuring Iran to accept what they [in Washington] want is a non-diplomatic approach."