Iran: Enrichment freeze deadline approaches

20 February 2007

As the 21 February deadline approaches, there is “no sign” of Iran suspending its uranium enrichment activities. The UN Security Council resolution of 23 December gave Iran 60 days to implement suspension or face sanctions.

IAEA director general Mohammed ElBaradei is expected to confirm that Iran has not complied with the resolution. Meanwhile, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared himself open to "unconditional" talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, while rejecting the UN’s call for enrichment suspension. In a televised speech, Ahmadinejad called on Western nations to suspend their own enrichment programmes if they want Iran to do the same.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr ElBaradei noted that there would still be scope for a diplomatic breakthrough until the weekend of 5 March, when the IAEA board will meet. ElBaradei is urging the adoption of a "double simultaneous suspension" of Iran’s enrichment programme and of UN sanctions, effectively giving both sides a "time out" to allow negotiations to continue.

A container of uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6), the feedstock for the enrichment process, was shipped to the Natanz uranium enrichment site in early February. The Natanz site, which has two confirmed cascades of 164 centrifuges plus reports of other cascades underground, is said to be on a list of targets in US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran. The USA insists it has no plans to attack and is committed to persuading Iran to cease its enrichment activities.

Further information

International Atomic Energy Agency

WNA’s Safeguards to prevent nuclear proliferation information paper
WNA’s Iraq, North Korea & Iran - Implications for Safeguards information paper

WNN: Confusionover Iranian position on enrichment
WNN: INSIGHTBRIEFING: Iran rebuked by sanctions