U.S. to demand Iran immediately close Fordo nuclear facility

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration, European allies due to set demands for Iran nuclear talks, that include a halt in production of higher-level uranium enrichment.

The United States and other Western nations plan to demand that Iran immediately close and ultimately dismantle the Fordo uranium enrichment facility, a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain, as part of new talks with Tehran over its nuclear program, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The diplomats told the Times that they could not imagine any agreement that left Iran with a stockpile of fuel, enriched to 20 percent purity, that could be converted to the grade needed to make an atomic bomb in a matter of months.

"We have no idea how the Iranians will react," a senior Obama administration official told the newspaper. "We probably won't know after the first meeting."
The opening talks are tentatively set for Friday.

In January, major powers signaled willingness to reopen the talks about curbing Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons but said Tehran must show it was serious about negotiations. Iran says its nuclear program is aimed solely at generating power.

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that U.S. President Barack Obama has recently passed a message to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which signaled that the United States would agree to an Iranian civilian nuclear program if they proved they were not developing a nuclear bomb.

According to David Ignatius, the Washington Post's senior columnist specializing in intelligence matters, Obama passed Khamenei the message through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Tehran this week.

The United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany are the six powers involved in diplomacy aimed at resolving the long-running row over Iran's atomic plans.

Russia and China recently joined the four Western powers in expressing "regret" over Iran's expansion of higher-grade enrichment, most of which is now taking place deep inside a mountain near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom to better protect it against Israeli or U.S. attacks.

The focus on diplomacy followed rising tensions between the West, which is seeking to cut Iran's oil sales, and Tehran, which threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz through which almost one-fifth of oil traded worldwide flows.

The United States has gradually tightened sanctions on Tehran due to its failure to answer questions about its nuclear program.