Nuclear Weapons - 2005 Developments
In January 2005 Iran showed the IAEA a handwritten document reflecting an offer said to have been made in 1987 by a foreign intermediary relating to centrifuge technology acquisition - a step in producing enriched uranium which can be used in weapons production. The document suggests that the offer included, among other items, materials for 2000 centrifuge machines. Iran stated that only some of the items had been delivered, and that all of them had been declared to the IAEA.
Iran allowed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the Parchin military site in January in the interests of transparency following the allegations, but the visit was limited to only one of four areas identified as being of potential interest and to only five buildings in that area
On 01 March 2005 Iran turned down a request by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency to make a second visit to the Parchin military site, which has been linked in allegations to nuclear weapons testing.
On 25 March 2005 the Islamic Republic of Iran's president Seyed Mohammad Khatami termed as a necessity the fight against the production and proliferation of WMDs. President Khatami, who was addressing the international conference on bio-ethics in Tehran, said that in order to preserve life and human rights and to respect all human beings one should always oppose the production and proliferation of WMDs. He stressed that opposition by one who manufactures such weapons has no bio-ethical value.
Iran proposed starting with a small-scale pilot enrichment plant of 2,000 to 3,000 centrifuges, which could produce enough HEU for one and a half bombs per year. This would be followed by the creation of a commercial-scale enrichment facility at Natanz with over 50,000 centrifuges. The EU trio unanimously rejected the idea of Iran running the large commercial plant, but some French politicians were open to the pilot plant. French foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said: "France is trying to obtain objective guarantees on Iran's peaceful use of nuclear energy." Security Council Foreign Affairs Committee Director Hossein Mousavian said that reports that Iran has proposed limiting uranium enrichment to only 500 centrifuges are totally baseless.
Iran offered to curb the reprocessing of spent fuel, which would limit its ability to acquire the plutonium that could be used to make atomic bombs. But it is insisting on maintaining limited uranium enrichment. France might be willing to adopt a softer approach to Iran.
Hassan Rohani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, said that Tehran would remain in the talks as long it appeared they were heading towards an agreement. "If at any moment we feel that this is no longer on the horizon, there will be no reason to go on with the process," he said.
On 27 July 2005 outgoing President Mohammad Khatami said, "Whether the Europeans mention our right in their would-be proposals or not, we will definitely resume work in Isfahan ... It was expected that they will agree to resumption of activities at the plant in Isfahan ... We prefer to do it with their agreement. If they don't agree, then the decision to start activities in Isfahan has already been made by the ruling system."
Iran rejected a proposal from Britain, France and Germany that offered economic and political incentives in return for suspending all nuclear activities. At the same time, Iran re-started conversion of uranium ore into uranium gas at its Isfahan plant. Iranian spokesman Asefi said Europe's behavior would affect his government's decision on whether to resume uranium enrichment at the Natanz nuclear plant. On 10 August 2005 Iran resumed nuclear work at Esfahan leading to the enrichment of uranium, after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) removes all seals preventing work.
On 12 August 2005 the board of IAEA called on Iran to stop the uranium conversion work it resumed, expressing "serious concern." The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna unanimously approved a resolution calling on Iran to resume a freeze on its nuclear activities.
US State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said that the matter should be referred to the UN Security Council if Iran continues to pursue its nuclear activities in defiance of the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
On 06 September 2005, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released its latest 'Strategic Dossier', entitled "Iran's Strategic Weapons Programmes - A Net Assessment". The press briefing was conducted by IISS Director Dr John Chipman, and IISS Director of Studies Dr Gary Samore, editor of the dossier. The analysis concluded that Iran faced technical difficulties in producing nuclear weapons, which could take up to 10 to 15 years to overcome. Gary Samore, one of the authors of the study and one-time security adviser to former President Bill Clinton said: "There are a number of different problems the Iranians are having producing high quality uranium hexafluoride feed material and in installing and testing centrifuge machines ... and on the basis of that judgment we argue that it would take Iran at least five years to produce enough weapons grade uranium for a single weapon if it made a political decision".
On 29 September 2005 Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's ruling Likud Party and chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Israeli officials estimated that Tehran was only two to three years away from developing a nuclear bomb and that time was running out for the world to act. He said that the best hope was for the United States and other powers to make it clear to Iranian leaders that there was "no chance they will ever see the fruits of a nuclear program." Mr. Steinitz said "We see an Iranian bomb as a devastating, existential threat to Israel, to the entire Middle East, to all Western interests in the region. .... Despite all the different circumstances, we see similarities to what happened in the 1930s, when people underestimated the real problem or focused on other dangers. For us, either the world will tackle Iran in advance or all of us will face the consequences."
On 26 October 2005 Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad cited comments by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic revolution, when he declared, "As the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map." Ahmadinejad told an audience of 3,000 students that there was "no doubt the new wave [of attacks] in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world." The remarks were immediately condemned by a number of countries including Israel, which said that Iran should be expelled from the United Nations.
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