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Minister: Arak Announcement an 'Iranian Deception'

Intelligence Minister hints that Arak water reactor announcement could be false, as West unlikely to accept proposed deal.
By Tova Dvorin and Gil Ronen
First Publish: 4/20/2014, 9:23 AM

A general view of the water facility at Arak
A general view of the water facility at Arak
AFP photo

Iran announced Saturday that the question of the Arak heavy water reactor - a sticking point in nuclear talks between Tehran and the P5+1 powers - was "almost resolved." 

But at least one Israeli official did not buy into the statement - and claimed that the move is yet another carefully orchestrated ploy in Iran's "charm offensive" against the West. 

"This is an exercise in deception with the Iranians," Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Yisrael HaYom Saturday night. "The Iranians are ready to yield [somewhat], but not on the most critical and most threatening subject. They defend the 'core curriculum' [of a nuclear weapons program]."

The Arak reactor, located 240 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Tehran, could provide Iran with plutonium capable of being used to make a nuclear bomb. Iran claims the 40 megawatt reactor, whose construction is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, is for peaceful medical research activity only.

On Saturday, Ali Akbar Salehi, Director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced that the reactor's output would be reduced to one-fifth of its current capacity. 

While the move has made headlines around the world, Steinitz, who has led the Israeli surveillance team monitoring the progress of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, said that Iran's willingness to compromise on the Arak nuclear reactor was not a surprise.

According to Steinitz, the risk management team on the Iranian side of talks decided that, after US President Barack Obama declared that the West will not allow Iran to continue using the heavy water reactor, a deceptive move was in order to ensure the core could remain intact.

Steinitz also hinted that Salehi's announcement could be false. According to the Minister, the West would never accept a deal to keep the core intact - even if the reactor's output was reduced significantly. 

"If the Iranians do not offer to switch the heavy water with cold water, but [merely to] reduce the output of the reactor, the offer will not be accepted at all," he predicted. "Instead of creating a bomb in one year, they will simply create one in two." 

Western powers still have yet to comment on the Iranian announcement.