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Terrorism & Security

Iran nuclear talks: Tehran says it's ready, despite assassination.

Tehran said it is ready to resume Iran nuclear talks with international powers after more than a year-long break. But it has yet to formally respond to an EU request to return to the table.

By Correspondent / January 13, 2012

This undated photo released by Iranian Fars News Agency, claims to show Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, who they say was killed in a bomb blast in Tehran, Iran, on Wednesday, next to his son. Two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to the car of an Iranian university professor working at a key nuclear facility, killing him and his driver, reports said.

Fars News Agency/AP

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Iran has reiterated its willingness to engage in talks on its controversial nuclear program, just days after another Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Iran was producing 20 percent enriched uranium.

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Iranian speaker of parliament Ali Larijani, who as the country's former top nuclear negotiator carries significant influence, said on a visit to Turkey yesterday that Tehran was ready for "serious" talks on its nuclear program, the BBC reports. The talks would be hosted by Istanbul and involve the so-called P5+1 group – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.

“Regarding the 5+1 talks, we have previously expressed Iran’s readiness to hold talks in order to resolve the nuclear issue,” said Mr. Larijani, speaking just a day after scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was killed in Tehran.

Given rising tensions related to increased international sanctions and the assassination of Mr. Roshan on Wednesday – the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist killed in the last two years, according to the Washington Post – many question whether the talks will move forward. It has been more than a year since Iran last discussed its nuclear goals with the P5+1, in Istanbul in January 2011, and Iran has not officially agreed to resume talks.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she is still awaiting response from Iran on a formal request sent in October inviting the country to talk, reports BBC News.

At issue is whether Iran is using the existence of a nuclear power program, which it is entitled to have, as a guise for developing nuclear weapons – a charge Tehran has repeatedly denied.

The government insists it is only trying to generate nuclear power and radioactive medical isotopes, Agence France Presse reports, they have increased enrichment levels from 3.5 to 20 percent – still shy of the 90 percent needed for a weapon, but an important step down that road.

Olli Heinonen, a former senior official with the IAEA who is now at Harvard, wrote an op-ed in Foreign Policy yesterday outlining Iran’s potential nuclear path:

If Iran decides to produce weapons-grade uranium from 20 percent enriched uranium, it has already technically undertaken 90 percent of the enrichment effort required. What remains to be done is the feeding of 20 percent uranium through existing additional cascades to achieve weapons-grade enrichment (more than 90 percent uranium). This step is much faster than the earlier ones. Growing the stockpile of 3.5 percent and 20 percent enriched uranium, as Iran is now doing, provides the basic material needed to produce four to five nuclear weapons.

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