Iran has confirmed it is prepared to halt its enrichment of 20-percent uranium, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reported on the ministry website Tuesday, June 18. He urged Western nations to reciprocate by lifting sanctions. debkafile: It was not clear whether this was a temporary suspension, an absolute halt – or a dodge for getting sanctions eased to enable the incoming Iranian president Hassan Rouhaini get to grips with his top priority, his country’s dire economic straits..
Lavrov explained persuasively in his message: “For the first time in many years, there are encouraging signs in the process of settlement of the situation with the Iranian nuclear program. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity.”
He called Tehran’s concession “a breakthrough agreement, significantly alleviating existing problems, including concerns about the possibility of advanced uranium enrichment to a weapons-grade level.”
Lavrov urged the international community “to adequately respond to the constructive progress made by Iran, including gradual suspension and lifting of sanctions, both unilateral and those introduced by the UN Security Council.”
The Russian foreign minister’s move ties in with two other developments – one at the two-day G8 summit ending Tuesday in Northern Ireland and the other in Tehran:
1. The Group of Eight was about to wind up its summit Tuesday evening by issuing a joint communiqué – over President Vladimir Putin’s objections – calling for a transition government in Damascus and Bashar Assad’s removal from power. Lavrov’s message from Tehran sought to persuade the Western powers, chiefly President Barack Obama, that they would be missing the chance of a nuclear settlement with Iran, because Tehran would never countenance Assad’s ouster.
debkafile: The Syrian conflict and the nuclear controversy with Iran have long been closely intertwined.
2. Moscow tried to put a positive slant on President-Elect Rouhani’s negative statement at his first news conference Monday, when he said Tehran “would not consider halting the country’s uranium enrichment activities entirely.”
What he meant, Lavrov hinted, was that Iran would not abandon low-level 5.3 percent enrichment – only the 20 percent grade which brought its nuclear program close to a weapons-grade capacity.
The Russian minister’s comment about it being “a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity” was addressed to Jerusalem.
debkafile’s military sources report that, two years ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak, came to a secret agreement with the Obama administration that if Tehran stopped the 20-percent enrichment of uranium and shut down its underground enrichment plant at Fordo, Israel would have no objections to Iran carrying on producing uranium refined to the 5.3 percent level.
Israel revoked this deal at the end of 2012 when Iran began massively accelerating its enrichment activities and accumulated enough 5.3 percent material for a rapid switch to 20-percent enriched uranium.