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Obama Considering Another Concession to Iran

The U.S. may drop a key demand on Iran, the NY Times reports, allowing it to keep nuclear facilities open during the start of negotiations.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 4/14/2009, 11:17 AM

The U.S. may drop a key demand on Iran, the NY Times reports, considering allowing it to keep nuclear facilities open during negotiations.

The Obama administration and its European allies are preparing proposals that omit a longstanding American demand that Tehran shut down nuclear facilities during the early phases of talks over its atomic program, the New York Times reports. 
The West must "design an approach [towards Iran] that is sensitive to Iran’s pride,” said UN Atomic Agency head Dr. El-Baradei.

The Times quotes “officials involved in the discussions” as saying the proposals under consideration in American-European planning sessions, would actually allow Iran to continue enriching uranium during the talks.  The Americans and Europeans would pressure Tehran to gradually open its nuclear program to wide-ranging inspection.

The Times notes that the new proposals represent “a sharp break from the approach taken by the Bush administration, which had demanded that Iran halt its enrichment activities, at least briefly to initiate negotiations.”  The Times endorsed Obama during the recent election after often attacking his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The Obama administration has still not completed its review of US policy vis-à-vis Iran, nearly three months after taking office. 

Europe: Iran Won't Bend, So We Will
A European official told the newspaper that it is widely believed that Iran has no intention of immediately shutting down its facilities, and that the Western approach will have to begin more gradually. "We are going to start with some interim steps, to build a little trust,” he said.

Administration officials declined to discuss details regarding their strategy talks with their European allies, but said that any new American policy would “ultimately” require Iran to cease enrichment, as demanded by several UN Security Council resolutions.

Mohamed El-Baradei, who heads the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), appears to have all but conceded that Iran will soon be an atomic power.  He told The Times last week that the West must accept the reality that Iran has “built 5,500 centrifuges,” nearly enough to make two weapons’ worth of uranium each year.

“You have to design an approach [regarding demands to inspect Iran’s nuclear plants and the like] that is sensitive to Iran’s pride,” said Dr. El-Baradei.

The Times says that Israel, on the other hand, is not willing to accept such a reality. A senior Israeli official said during a recent visit to Washington that Obama had only until the end of the year to “completely end” Iran’s uranium production.  Otherwise, the official made it clear, Israel might revive its efforts to bomb the main uranium plant.

An Obama administration official said the Israelis have not recently repeated their request for cooperation in bombing Iran, but “we don’t think their threats are just huffing and puffing.” Iranian President Mohammed Ahmadinajad has repeatedly threatened Israel, saying it should be wiped off the map.