Tuesday, December 1, 2009

US and Israel close gaps as Iran reject dialogue - Ahmadinejad: Nuclear issue is resolved

(JPOST,JTA).Iran continued snubbing the world Tuesday, two days after defiantly announcing a decision to build ten uranium enrichment facilities in the face of international condemnation of its lack of transparency in dealing with the IAEA.

"Iran's nuclear issue has been resolved ... We will hold no talks (with major powers) over this issue. There is no need for talks," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday, in a televised interview communicated by the Reuters news agency.

"Talking about isolating Iran (over its nuclear work) is a psychological war launched by the West ... Iran is a unique country ... and no country can isolate it," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

During the interview, Ahmadinejad said Teheran is reviewing the option of decreasing cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog and criticized Russia's support for the IAEA's resolution, calling it a mistake.

"Friendly relations with the agency are over. We will cooperate as much as they offer us compromises. We are reviewing this," he said.

The sharply worded IAEA resolution on Friday demanded Iran halt all uranium enrichment and stop construction of a newly discovered nuclear facility near the Iranian city of Qom. Iran responded by saying it would build even more such facilities.

"Russia made a mistake. It has no correct analysis about current situation of the world," Ahmadinejad said, maintaining that Britain and Israel had swayed the opinion of the UN body because of their animosity toward Iran.

The Iranian president later referred to US President Barack Obama's involvement in UN-brokered efforts to convince the Islamic republic to ship a large portion of its low-enriched uranium out of the country. "Obama's behavior is worrying. We expected him to make changes," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Iran's Fars news agency reported that Teheran would upgrade the quality of centrifuges installed at its UN-monitored nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz.

The report quoted top Iranian national security official Ali Baqeri as saying that the Islamic republic sought "to promote the quality of centrifuges, as the type of these centrifuges is more important than their number."

Israeli pundits say the Iranian threats are intended to test international resolve in the hope of getting an improved offer from the United States and other major powers: permission to enrich uranium to industrial grade on Iranian soil rather than in France and Russia.

But this time, the pundits say, the Iranians may have miscalculated, and the clear White House warning that "time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns about its nuclear program" could presage the end of President Obama's attempt to engage Iran and the beginning of the harsh sanctions regime Netanyahu has long advocated -- with Russia and China aboard.

Indeed, when he first met Obama in 2007, before either man was in high office, Netanyahu pressed the case for strong economic sanctions against Iran. Obama, then a junior senator, picked up on this and soon afterward sponsored the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act.

During their latest meeting in Washington just over three weeks ago, Iran again was high on the agenda. Netanyahu told journalists that time would show the meeting to have been very significant -- he strongly emphasized the word very -- language some pundits took to imply that major understandings on the Iranian nuclear issue had been reached.

For now, the signs are that Obama and Netanyahu are very much on the same sanctions page, with slightly different views on the timing. The big question is what happens if sanctions fail.

As Iranian leaders continued to react angrily to last week's IAEA resolution, a senior Russian diplomat said Tuesday that Moscow would back any decision to impose more sanctions against Iran, according to a Reuters report.

"If there is a consensus on Iran sanctions, we will not stand aside," the diplomat was quoted as saying. He added, however, that sanctions were not an immediate concern.

"We would rather have Iran cooperating more openly … to lift concerns, which are gaining more ground," he said.