After "the most extensive U.S.-Iranian talks in 30 years," including "45-minute bilateral talks," U.S. President Barack Obama "hailed what he said was a tentative agreement that could help diminish tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program" by having Iran ship abroas low-enriched uranium, the Financial Times of London reported late Thursday and early Friday.[1]  --  The Washington Post spoke in more definite terms of "sudden movement on an issue that has been in stalemate for seven years" and said Iran "reached an agreement with major powers," but went on to quote Iran hawk John Bolton's denunciation of the agreement and editorialized — in its main article — that "The United States will need to keep the pressure on Iran to avoid being dragged into a process without end."[2]  --  Glenn Kessler said that "Under the tentative deal, Iran would give up most of its enriched uranium to Russia in order for it to be converted into desperately needed material for a medical research reactor in Tehran.  Iran also agreed to let international inspectors visit the newly disclosed uranium-enrichment facility in Qom within two weeks, and then to attend another meeting with negotiators from the major powers by the end of the month."  --  The Post had the most detailed account of the meeting at Geneva, saying that "the mood shifted subtly after the participants broke for lunch.  The chief U.S. negotiator, Undersecretary of State William J. Burns, spent 45 minutes in a small sitting room with Jalili while the other diplomats gathered in the back yard of the Villa Le Saugy, admiring the views of the Swiss Alps and Lake Geneva as they mingled in small groups and ate from a cold buffet of fish and salads."  --  With respect to the nuclear facility near Qom that Iran revealed to the IAEA on Sept. 21, the Wall Street Journal reported that the IAEA will be able to "dispatch a team within two weeks if no obstacles arise."[3]  --  Warren Strobel of McClatchy Newspapers also played down the surprising agreement, observing that "Iran gave no ground on demands that it halt the enrichment of uranium" and echoing what is essentially the Bolton line:  "that Tehran will string out diplomacy with small concessions while it continues covert work toward fashioning a nuclear weapon."[4]  --  In its report, the New York Times echoed American officials who called the day "a modest success on a long and complicated road" and expressed satisfaction that "Iran had at least finally engaged with the big powers on its nuclear program after more than a year and had agreed to some tangible, confidence-building steps before another meeting with the same participants before the end of this month."[5] ...

1.

OBAMA WELCOMES ADVANCE IN IRAN TALKS
By James Blitz (Geneva), Daniel Dombey (Washington), and Harvey Morris (United Nations)

Financial Times (London)
October 1, 2009 (updated Oct. 2)

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/acea179e-aea6-11de-96d7-00144feabdc0.html

President Barack Obama on Thursday hailed what he said was a tentative agreement that could help diminish tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program after the most extensive U.S.-Iranian talks in 30 years.

Speaking at the White House after the end of international negotiations in Geneva, Mr. Obama said the U.S. was looking for swift and concrete action by Tehran after a day of constructive talks.

Both Iran and its interlocutors, which also included Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany, said the two sides had agreed to resume talks on the nuclear file this month and that the Islamic Republic would allow international inspectors to see a previously undeclared nuclear site near the city of Qom, dramatically revealed last week.

But the U.S. president added the diplomatic talks had agreed in principle that Iran would ship abroad low enriched uranium -- which the West fears could be developed into fissile material for a weapon -- for processing into medical uranium.

A senior U.S. official said that under such a deal most of Iran’s stock of enriched uranium could be taken out of the country.

The proposal, based on a U.S.-Russian initiative, comes barely two weeks after Mr. Obama was praised by Moscow for redrawing missile plans it had opposed. “The Russians seem to have delivered this,” said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a U.S.-based consultancy.

However, the details must still be worked out.

Mr. Obama called on Iran to “grant unfettered access to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors within two weeks,” noting that Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA head, was due to travel to Tehran shortly. “Today’s meeting was a constructive beginning,” the U.S. president said. “But it must be followed by constructive action by Iran’s government.”

The most symbolic meeting on Thursday occurred when William Burns, the senior U.S. representative, held 45-minute bilateral talks with Saeed Jalili, Iran’s negotiator.

Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has discussed issues such as Afghanistan and Iraq with Iran, and last year Mr. Burns attended an international meeting with Iran, but lacked full powers to negotiate. By contrast, a U.S. diplomat described Thursday’s meeting as “direct and candid.”

Western diplomats regard Tehran’s readiness to reopen substantive talks on the nuclear file as crucial if there is to be any agreement on reining in Iran’s program, which has moved ahead over the past year.

However, many diplomats voice concerns that Iran may be stalling for time, pointing to a series of unproductive meetings between Tehran and the Europeans in the past.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday backed legislation that could limit international companies that sell refined oil to Iran from doing business with the U.S.

2.

World

Middle East

Iran

IRAN, MAJOR POWERS REACH AGREEMENT ON SERIES OF POINTS
By Glenn Kessler

** Obama Sees a 'Constructive Beginning' **

Washington Post
October 2, 2009

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/01/AR2009100101294.html

GENEVA -- The United States and Iran tentatively stepped back from looming confrontation on Thursday, as the Islamic Republic reached an agreement with major powers that would greatly reduce Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium and reset the diplomatic clock for a solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The outcome, which President Obama in Washington called a "constructive beginning," came after 7 1/2 hours of talks in an 18th-century villa on the outskirts of Geneva that included the highest-level bilateral meeting between the two countries since relations were severed three decades ago after the Iranian revolution. But the difficulties that lie ahead were illustrated when the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, held a triumphant news conference at which he denounced "media terrorism," insisted that Iran has always fully met its international commitments, and refused even to acknowledge a question from an Israeli reporter.

The sudden show of cooperation by Tehran reduces for now the threat of additional sanctions, which has been made repeatedly by the United States and others over the past week after the revelation of a secret Iranian nuclear facility. The United States will need to keep the pressure on Iran to avoid being dragged into a process without end.

Under the tentative deal, Iran would give up most of its enriched uranium to Russia in order for it to be converted into desperately needed material for a medical research reactor in Tehran. Iran also agreed to let international inspectors visit the newly disclosed uranium-enrichment facility in Qom within two weeks, and then to attend another meeting with negotiators from the major powers by the end of the month. The series of agreements struck at the meeting was in itself unusual because, in the past, the Iranian negotiators have said they would get back with an answer -- and then fail to do so.

U.S. and other diplomats present at the talks said the tone of the Iranian delegation privately was not different from the public posture, with much of the morning devoted to lengthy exchanges of official talking points. But they said the mood shifted subtly after the participants broke for lunch. The chief U.S. negotiator, Undersecretary of State William J. Burns, spent 45 minutes in a small sitting room with Jalili while the other diplomats gathered in the back yard of the Villa Le Saugy, admiring the views of the Swiss Alps and Lake Geneva as they mingled in small groups and ate from a cold buffet of fish and salads.

The negotiators -- including diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union -- never returned to the conference table but continued huddling in a rotating series of groups to structure the agreements.

The outcome of the talks was immediately criticized by former U.N. ambassador John R. Bolton, who as a Bush administration official balked at George W. Bush's efforts to entice Iran into negotiations. "They've now got the United States ensnared in negotiations," he said. "This is like the movie 'Groundhog Day.'" But another Bush-era official, former undersecretary of state R. Nicholas Burns, said that even if talks fail, Obama will have demonstrated that he tried hard to make diplomacy work -- and will win greater support for sanctions.

Despite the drama of sudden movement on an issue that has been in stalemate for seven years, all sides agreed that they are months, even years away from a resolution. The ultimate U.S. goal is suspension of Iran's uranium-enrichment activities -- and Tehran insists that it will never take that step.

"This is only a start, and we shall need to see progress through some of the practical steps we have discussed today," said European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who headed the delegation of six nations meeting with Iran. He said he hoped for "rapid and intense" negotiations to follow.

U.S. officials have asserted that the revelation of the Qom facility had diplomatically isolated Iran, leaving it little choice but to cooperate or face new sanctions. Diplomats said the term "sanctions" was never uttered during the lengthy day, though oblique reference was made to a statement issued by foreign ministers of the group last week. That statement raised the possibility of more sanctions if no negotiating track was soon established.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki -- who was given a rare visa by the Obama administration to visit Washington on Wednesday -- told reporters in New York that Iran is not building any other nuclear facilities, saying the "only case under construction is Qom." He said that the Geneva talks took place in a "constructive" atmosphere and that Iran is committed to continuing negotiations with the six powers, including the possibility of a future presidential summit. But he also made it clear that Iran would not yield to pressure to suspend its enrichment of uranium.

The agreement concerning the medical reactor was unexpected, and U.S. officials cast it both as a way to respond to a pressing Iranian need and to extend the time available to hold negotiations. "It is a confidence-building measure which will, to some extent, alleviate tension and buy some more diplomatic space to pursue the more fundamental problem of Iran's nuclear program," said one senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in an interview last week with the Washington Post and Newsweek, said he was seeking international assistance to fuel the reactor, which is closely observed by international inspectors and produces medical isotopes to help detect and treat diseases. He said the reactor, which requires uranium enriched to 19.75 percent, is running out of fuel because countries had refused to sell it to Iran.

In the meantime, Iran's Natanz reactor has accumulated enough low-enriched uranium gas that it, in theory, could convert it to enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon. Under the tentative agreement, U.S. officials said, Iran would export most of its 3,300 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia, which would then convert it to the material needed for the reactor. France would also assist in fabricating the material into metallic rods for use in the medical reactor.

Officials said the removal of the low-enriched uranium from Iranian soil should lessen concerns -- particularly in Israel -- that time was running out for a negotiated solution. Russia has long offered to enrich uranium for Iran, an idea never fully embraced by either Iran or the Bush administration, but U.S. officials insisted that the deal was not intended as a template for a future solution.

Under U.N. Security Council resolutions, Iran is prohibited from exporting nuclear material, so a new resolution would probably need to be approved for the deal to go through.

Obama said at the White House that the United States has "entered a phase of intensive international negotiations" and warned that "pledges of cooperation must be fulfilled." He also said Iran now has "a path towards a better relationship with the United States."

The conversation between Burns, the American negotiator, and Jalili was described by one U.S. official as "direct and candid." It focused mostly on the nuclear issue but also included a "frank exchange" on human rights. Several other U.S. officials also took the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Iranian counterparts, with one raising the case of three American hikers being held in Iran.

Fifteen months ago, Burns was in Geneva at a similar meeting but, under rules set by the Bush administration, was barely permitted to speak and was ordered to avoid contact with Jalili. This time, the depth and length of their conversation may have been unusual in the annals of U.S.-Iranian diplomatic discourse, but Jalili did not seem to make much note of it. Asked about the conversation, he simply said he had spoken individually to many of the diplomats at the meeting.

--Staff writer Colum Lynch at the United Nations and Anne E. Kornblut in Washington contributed to this report.

3.

Middle East news

INSPECTORS PREPARE TO VISIT QOM FACILITY
By David Crawford and Joe Lauria

Wall Street Journal
October 2, 2009

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125444482868158131.html

Iran's agreement to permit inspectors to examine its recently disclosed uranium-enrichment facility could clear the way for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, to dispatch a team within two weeks if no obstacles arise.

On Thursday, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei accepted an invitation from Tehran to go to Iran on Saturday to work out the logistics of the inspections, officials said.

In addition to examining the operation in Qom, in north central Iran, inspectors will be looking for signs of additional facilities. Yet the IAEA could face a number of legal hurdles if inspectors try to go beyond their immediate mandate, U.N. officials say.

The inspectors will be restricted to requesting visits to facilities that Iran has declared part of its nuclear program, for example. Iran has refused to ratify a 1992 protocol that allows inspectors access to any site they believe may be nuclear-related.

Tehran has described the facility at Qom as a pilot project. Given its limited capacity, it would be unsuitable to enrich uranium for civilian nuclear-power purposes but could be used to produce bomb-grade fuel, U.S. officials say.

Though the IAEA can dispatch inspectors on short notice, governments can employ various delaying tactics to postpone the inspections.

The IAEA designs a specific program for each nuclear facility it monitors, according to a person familiar with its inspections, with the goal of preventing the use of nuclear material for a weapon. Details of that strategy are confidential, a person familiar with the monitoring said, but many of the tools are known.

Once in Iran, for example, IAEA inspectors are expected to consider changes to the building design. The agency is allowed to modify the design to allow for future inspections once nuclear material is introduced.

Inspectors could eventually install special cameras, neutron detectors, and devices to detect activity or movement of sensitive equipment or fuel. To prevent tampering, the IAEA inspection teams mark their equipment with special seals. Should an object be moved or altered, the seal would be damaged, the person familiar with the monitoring said.

IAEA inspectors also take dust samples to determine if nuclear enrichment has secretly occurred.

Inspectors schedule inspections based on an assessment of the "maximum time period I can safely leave this site unattended," the person said. A site that processes minimal amounts of low-enriched nuclear material is inspected less often than a site producing large amounts of plutonium -- a possible component of nuclear weapons -- the person said.

In the past, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has hinted that Iran has other nuclear sites it hasn't disclosed to the IAEA. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said at a U.N. news conference Thursday that Iran has no undeclared nuclear sites.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said in New York last week that IAEA regulations require that a country declare the existence of a nuclear enrichment facility only six months before enrichment begins.

IAEA and U.N. officials reject Iran's interpretation of those regulations. But inspectors will need agreement from Iranian authorities to enter any new sites unless the presence of undeclared nuclear material is suspected, according to the agreement between the IAEA and its member countries.

If nuclear material is suspected in a facility the inspectors can invoke "special inspection rights" to demand entry. But "if the government says no, what are you going to do?" a U.N. official asked. "You are not going to force yourself."

--Write to David Crawford at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Joe Lauria at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4.

WEST SKEPTICAL OF IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
By Warren P. Strobel and Margaret Talev

McClatchy Newspapers
October 2, 2009

http://www.kansascity.com/news/world/story/1484135.html

GENEVA -- Iran agreed Thursday to ship most of its enriched uranium to Russia for refinement, in what Western diplomats called a significant, but interim, measure.

The deal eases concerns over Tehran’s nuclear program because it provides a measure of certainty that the uranium will not be used to make weapons.

The agreement was announced after more than seven hours of high-level talks in Geneva among Iran and representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

The talks also featured the highest-level encounter between U.S. and Iranian officials in three decades.

Iran also pledged that within weeks it will allow the inspection of a previously covert uranium enrichment facility. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, announced plans to travel to Tehran to work out the details.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said the talks marked “a constructive beginning” and showed the promise of renewed engagement with Iran, but he added that “going forward, we expect to see swift action. We’re not interested in talking for the sake of talking.”

In Geneva, Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said he hoped the talks, which are to reconvene later this month, were the start of intensive engagement with Iran after a 15-month pause.

Despite the signs of progress, however, Iran gave no ground on demands that it halt the enrichment of uranium, which can be used for civilian purposes -- or to make weapons.

Skeptics, including the Obama administration, Israel, and many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, also worry that Tehran will string out diplomacy with small concessions while it continues covert work toward fashioning a nuclear weapon.

“The overall problem of Iran’s nuclear program remains,” said a senior U.S. official speaking anonymously.

Under the deal, Iran would ship what a U.S. official said was “most” of its 3,300 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia, where it would be further refined. French technicians then would fabricate it into fuel rods and return it to Tehran to power a reactor that’s used to make isotopes for nuclear medicine.

During the talks at a villa outside Geneva, Undersecretary of State William Burns, the State Department’s No. 3 official, met for about 45 minutes with Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. At that session, which officials described as businesslike, Burns raised Iran’s human rights record, the senior U.S. official said.

5.

IRAN AGREES TO SEND ENRICHED URANIUM TO RUSSIA
By Steven Erlanger and Mark Landler

New York Times
October 2, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/02/world/middleeast/02nuke.html

GENEVA -- Iran agreed on Thursday in talks with the United States and other major powers to open its newly revealed uranium enrichment plant near Qom to international inspection in the next two weeks and to send most of its openly declared enriched uranium outside Iran to be turned into fuel for a small reactor that produces medical isotopes, senior American and other Western officials said.

Iran’s agreement in principle to export most of its enriched uranium for processing -- if it happens -- would represent a major accomplishment for the West, reducing Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon quickly and buying more time for negotiations to bear fruit.

If Iran has secret stockpiles of enriched uranium, however, the accomplishment would be hollow, a senior American official conceded.

The officials described the long day of talks here with Iran, the first such discussions in which the United States has participated fully, as a modest success on a long and complicated road. Iran had at least finally engaged with the big powers on its nuclear program after more than a year and had agreed to some tangible, confidence-building steps before another meeting with the same participants before the end of this month.

But despite the relatively promising outcome, the Obama administration was at pains to strike a cautious tone, given Iran’s history of duplicity, its crackdown on its own people after the tainted June presidential elections and President Obama’s concern about being perceived as naïve or susceptible to a policy of Iranian delays.

Mr. Obama, speaking in Washington, called the talks “constructive,” but warned Tehran that he was prepared to move quickly to more stringent sanctions if negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions dragged on.

“We’re not interested in talking for the sake of talking,” Mr. Obama told reporters in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room. “If Iran does not take steps in the near future to live up to its obligations, then the United States will not continue to negotiate indefinitely.”

France and Britain have spoken of December as an informal deadline for Iran to negotiate seriously about stopping enrichment and cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency. American officials say that timeline is “about right,” but Iran continues to insist that it has the right to enrich uranium for what it calls a purely civilian program.

Mr. Obama said Tehran must allow international inspectors into the site near Qum within the next two weeks, a timeline Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, agreed to here.

The atomic energy agency’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, will travel to Tehran this weekend to discuss the details and timing of the inspections, officials said. But the Americans also want Iran to cooperate with the inspectors and make personnel and documents about the site near Qum available.

Besides the scheduling of another meeting, the main practical accomplishment on Thursday was Iran’s agreement in principle -- to be worked out by experts later this month in Vienna -- to ship what American officials called “most” of its declared stockpile of lightly enriched uranium to Russia and France to be turned into nuclear fuel.

While American officials refused to specify the amount, other Western officials said it could be 1,200 kilograms, or more than 2,600 pounds, of enriched uranium, which could be as much as 75 percent of Iran’s declared stockpile. While there may be hidden stocks of enriched uranium, such a transfer, if it occurs, “buys some time” for further negotiations, a senior American official said.

Given the assessment that Iran has made enough low-enriched uranium to produce at least one nuclear weapon at some time in the future, a sharp reduction in its stockpile would be “a confidence-building measure to alleviate tensions and buy us some diplomatic space,” the official said.

Israel, the nation most concerned about a nuclear-armed Iran, has been informed of the discussions, another American official said.

Iran’s uranium is enriched to about 3.5 to 5 percent, the officials said; the Tehran reactor for making medical isotopes, last powered by Argentine-made fuel in 1993, needs uranium enriched to 19.75 percent, still far below weapons grade. And that uranium must then be fabricated into metal rods for the reactor.

Iran had told the International Atomic Energy Agency that it needed fuel for the Tehran reactor before December 2010. Washington, with its allies, pushed the agency to offer Iran the fuel, but made from Iran’s own enriched uranium as a feedstock. Mr. Jalili agreed to that in principle on Thursday.

The talks were between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — as well as Germany, and led by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

The tone of the discussions, held just outside Geneva, was considerably more positive than just a week ago, after the United States revealed the existence of the uranium enrichment site near Qom and, with its European allies, threatened Iran with tough new sanctions if it refused to halt its uranium enrichment program, which they suspect is meant for creating atomic weapons.

“This was a day very much for the engagement track of the two-track strategy,” a senior American official said, with the second track -- increased sanctions -- to be discussed only if this new round of negotiations founders.

After a plenary session in the morning, the participants adjourned to a lunch where informal discussions continued, followed by three hours of informal bilateral meetings. Those included a 45-minute session between the chief American diplomat here, Under Secretary of State William J. Burns, and Mr. Jalili, the highest level United States-Iranian talks in three decades.

Mr. Burns raised a range of topics, including the nuclear dispute and the plant near Qom and human-rights issues, American officials said, while the Iranians raised their own concerns, including the need for a world free of nuclear bombs and access to peaceful nuclear energy for all.

Mr. Jalili, in a news conference, called the discussions “good talks that will be a framework for better talks,” and expressed satisfaction that the world had engaged with Iran’s global agenda, which includes nuclear disarmament. He denied that there were any other Iranian nuclear facilities hidden from the I.A.E.A.

Many diplomats and analysts believe that the plant near Qom is only one of a series of hidden installations that Iran has constructed, in addition to its publicly acknowledged ones, for what is considered to be a military program. Iran insists that its program is purely peaceful and that it has a right under the nonproliferation treaty to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. But it has regularly lied to the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency about its facilities.

Despite the uncertainties, nuclear experts hailed the tentative agreements. “It’s significant,” David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said. “The principle is important.”

Mr. Albright said the amount of low-enriched uranium to be shipped out of Iran was also significant. Iran’s stockpile has worried some arms controllers, who fear that Tehran may drop out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and further enrich the material into fuel for a bomb.

The new accord would end that prospect -- at least for the exported uranium.

Mr. Albright cautioned that the deal would become a real solution only if Iran expanded the accord to cover all the uranium that it wanted enriched. “Iran’s made a concession,” he said. “But it has little meaning for the long term unless Iran continues to send out” its uranium for enrichment.

--Steven Erlanger reported from Geneva, and Mark Landler from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Helene Cooper from Washington, Sharon Otterman and William J. Broad from New York, and Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations.