Iran Cools Nuclear Work as Vote Looms


ayatollah-ali-khameneiSupreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to keep Iran’s nuclear program within limits demanded by Israel for now, according to senior U.S., European and Israeli officials, in a move they believe is designed to avert an international crisis before the Iranian elections in June. International negotiations aimed at containing Iran’s nuclear program resume Friday in Kazakhstan in what will likely be the last round of diplomacy until after the elections. U.S. officials are doubtful of any major breakthrough in those talks.

Iranian nuclear officials have kept the country’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20% purity below 250 kilograms (550 pounds), the amount needed – if processed further into weapons-grade fuel – to produce one atomic bomb. This is also the amount Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN in September that the world should prevent Iran from amassing, through a military strike if necessary.

“Based on the latest IAEA report, Iran appears to be limiting its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium by converting a significant portion of it to oxide,” said a senior U.S. official. “But that could change at any moment.” U.S. and Israeli officials believe Iran’s moves represent a delay, rather than a change of heart, and that other actions are accelerating the pace at which the country could create weapons-grade fuel.

{Andy Newscenter}