One step forward, one step back on Iran's nuclear program
Iran has taken steps that indicate a slowing down of its nuclear progress like converting enriched uranium into reactor fuel, but it also announced new centrifuges that could hasten uranium enrichment.
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Middle East Editor
Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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United Nations nuclear agency inspectors concluded a one-day visit to Tehran without a solution for restarting stalled inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities and without concrete plans for another meeting to discuss a deal.
The team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) most immediately seeks access to the Parchin military complex outside Tehran, where Iran is suspected by the IAEA to be working toward nuclear weapon capability, but left with no guarantees it would be allowed to do so.
“We will work hard now to try and resolve the remaining differences, but time is needed to reflect on a way forward,” IAEA chief inspector Herman Nackaerts said today, after arriving back in Vienna, Bloomberg reports.
However, his Iranian counterpart, IAEA envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh, made a somewhat more optimistic pronouncement. “Some differences were overcome and we agreed on certain points," he said. He also alluded to a future meeting. Meanwhile, a headline from Press TV, Iran's English-language news service, read: "Iran, IAEA reach basic agreement."
Iran's nuclear program has been surrounded by mixed signals in recent weeks. As the Monitor's Scott Peterson reported yesterday, Iran has taken a number of steps lately that seem to indicate it is slowing down its nuclear progress, possibly to avoid reaching the point at which Israel would feel compelled to retaliate. It has converted some of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, taking it out of the mix for use in potential nuclear weapons, and seems to have made no strides forward in its development of longer-range weapons that could carry a nuclear warhead.
But it also announced yesterday, as Iranian officials met with IAEA inspectors, the installation of a new generation of centrifuges for enriching uranium, which could "significantly speed up its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used to develop a nuclear weapon," Reuters reports.