Thursday, October 1, 2009

Obama says Iran must give inspectors 'unfettered access' to uranium enrichment plant; "Our patience is not unlimited"

(AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday called landmark nuclear talks with Iran a constructive beginning, then challenged Tehran to match words with deeds by giving international inspectors "unfettered access" to a previously secret uranium enrichment plant within two weeks.

"Talk is no substitute for action," Obama said at the White House after talks ended earlier in the day in Switzerland. "Our patience is not unlimited."

If Iran fails to live up to its promises of cooperation, "then the United States will not continue to negotiate indefinitely and we are prepared to move toward increased pressure," the president warned. His reference to pressure was an allusion to tougher U.N. and other sanctions already under discussion.

Obama's comments were sharper and more specific than those earlier in the day by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said the talks had "opened the door" to potential progress on clarifying Iran's nuclear ambitions.

But, striking a cautious tone, Clinton said in Washington it remained to be seen whether the Iranians would act decisively to address concerns about their intentions.

The U.S. concern, shared by many other nations, is that Iran may be using its declared nuclear facilities — which it asserts are intended only for peaceful purposes — as cover for building a nuclear weapon.

Obama said Iran should act in two areas to alleviate those concerns, and he implied that the country was on the right track.

The first is what Obama called transparency. He said Iran must open the doors within two weeks to a newly disclosed facility near the city of Qom that is intended to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel. The second area where Obama urged Iranian action is building international confidence in the peaceful nature of the nuclear program. In this regard he said Iran had agreed in principle to ship low-enriched uranium to a third country to further process the material for use in a research reactor in Tehran.

"We support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power," Obama said. "Taking the step of transferring its low-enriched uranium to a third country would be a step toward building confidence that Iran's program is in fact peaceful."

Israel's Doubts On Talks Allayed

(WaPo).Israeli Foreign Ministry and other officials declined to comment on the Geneva meetings -- a message in itself in a country that considers Iran a chief security concern and has pointedly refused to rule out military action against its nuclear facilities.

"It is not entirely clear whether the degree of alarm in Israel should be lower or even higher" after the disclosure, said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and the author of a book on Iran's nuclear strategy. "The Iranians know how to milk a negotiating process for what they need. Engagement was tried by the Europeans and failed, and there is very little reason to believe that it is going to be successful" under Obama.

"I don't give the talks a shred of a chance for success," said retired Brig. Gen. Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister. But "I fully trust his goodwill and intentions."