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Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010

EDITORIAL

Talks with Iran just a start

The five U.N. Security Council members — the United States, China, Britain, France and Russia — and Germany held meetings with Iran in Geneva on Dec. 6 and 7 over the latter's nuclear program — the first such meetings since October 2009 and since the UNSC imposed the fourth set of sanctions against Iran in June 2010. The six powers and Iran failed to make any substantive progress. They only agreed to meet again in Istanbul in late January.

The six powers have been calling on Iran to stop its uranium enrichment activities. But Iran says it will not stop the activities, insisting that they are for peaceful purposes, such as power generation and medical use. On Dec. 5, before the meetings, Iran announced that it had succeeded in domestically making yellowcake, the raw material for enriched uranium.

The international community does not want to see Iran increase its storage of enriched uranium. But according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has manufactured 3.1 tons of low-enriched uranium with a concentration of less than 5 percent, doubling the amount stored in the past year. It is said that if this were enriched to weapons-grade level, it would be enough to build two or three nuclear weapons.

If Iran developed nuclear weapons, it would greatly destabilize the Middle East. U.S. diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks show that Saudi Arabia and Egypt told the U.S. that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, they may do the same. Moreover, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the U.S. to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program.

In an effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the U.S. has acknowledged that Iran has the right to a peaceful nuclear program and accepted the operation of Iran's first nuclear power plant built with Russian assistance. Russia, for its part, has almost totally stopped its military assistance to Iran. In July, the U.S. and the European Union adopted their own sanctions against Iran. At the very least, Iran should make its nuclear program completely transparent. Doing so would help it avoid international isolation.



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