On Friday, both Disney-owned ABC News and the New York Times cast the latest news from Iran in a negative light.  --  ABC News construed a speech broadcast live on Iranian state television from the historic city of Qazvin in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said recent diplomatic progress meant that "international monopolists" had "been defeated in the face of your resistance and solidarity and have been forced to acknowledge your dignity and greatness" as amounting to saying that the "U.S. gave in," which is not quite the same thing.[1]  --  A three-page document submitted to the IAEA and leaked to the Western press was said to show that Iran had "picked up the pace [of uranium enrichment] on Tuesday, the day the proposal for talks was delivered," implying duplicity.  --  The New York Times made much of this latter development, calling it a "revelation" and saying it was "likely to stiffen the resolve of the United States and the Europeans in particular that a complete freeze of uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities is a condition for formal negotiations."[2]  --  Elaine Sciolino sprinkled meaningless but ominous-sounding negative phrases like "no explanation" and "without explanation" and offered gratuitous observations like "apparently unaware of the critical I.A.E.A. report," and "Whether Iran's new production of nuclear fuel would affect the strategy was not known."  --  Sciolino, who once wrote about the Islamic Republic in a less negative light (see her Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran [Free Press, 2000]), has been criticized for this Boltonesque vein before; Gordon Prather, an expert in national security and nuclear physics, took her to task in February for her anti-Iran bias.  --  On May 19, she co-authored an article entitled "Iran's Secrecy Widens Gap in Nuclear Intelligence."  --  There, too, an impressive headline and an ominous pseudo-objective tone were used to present a poorly supported thesis full of legal and logical holes.  --  See here for our analysis of that piece.  --  Friday's article in the Times suggests the influential paper will continue to seek to denigrate the possibility of a diplomatic solution to the long-simmering crisis....



By Ali Akbar Dareini

** Iran's President Ahmadinejad Says Iran Ready for Nuclear Talks, Claims West Gave In **

ABC News
June 9, 2006


[PHOTO CAPTION: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad points during a public gathering during his visit to the city of Qazvin, 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of the capital Tehran, Iran, Thursday, June 8, 2006. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran was ready to discuss "mutual concerns" over its controversial nuclear program but claimed that the West gave in to Iran. Ahmadinejad did not say whether Iran accepts a Western package of incentives aimed at enticing Iran to suspend uranium enrichment to open the way for negotiations with the United States and Europe.]

TEHRAN -- Iran's president said Thursday his regime is ready for talks over its nuclear capabilities, but he sent mixed signals on how much is open for negotiation and suggested Tehran has the upper hand in its showdown with the West.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated Iran's position that uranium enrichment is an untouchable national right, a clear jab at the West two days after Iran received a package of economic and technological incentives to suspend the program.

But he also offered some signs of flexibility without specifically mentioning the proposal. In a speech at an industrial city, he said Iran would hold dialogue on "mutual concerns" with foreign powers including the United States if they took place "free from threats."

A report to the U.N. nuclear agency's board, meanwhile, said Iran slowed enrichment over the past month but picked up the pace Tuesday, the day the proposal for talks was delivered. There was no indication in the report, obtained by the Associated Press, that the two events were linked.

While the slowdown in enrichment could reflect a decision by Iran to send a positive signal before talks, a senior U.N. official said it also could be the result of technical difficulties. The official agreed to discuss the confidential report only if not quoted by name.

Ahmadinejad portrayed Iran as having forced Washington and its allies to accept the Islamic regime's "greatness and dignity" and increasingly bend to its will.

The shifting messages are seen as part of Iranian posturing before possible talks, which could include the United States after a nearly 27-year diplomatic freeze. Western nations, led by the U.S., worry Iran's uranium enrichment technology could become the backbone for a nuclear arms program. Iran insists it only seeks electricity-producing reactors.

"The nation will never hold negotiations about its definite rights with anybody, but we are for talks about mutual concerns to resolve misunderstandings in the international arena," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in Qazvin, about 60 miles northwest of Tehran.

In a major policy shift, the United States agreed last week to join France, Britain, and Germany in talks with Iran, provided Tehran suspends all suspect nuclear activities. Tehran has welcomed direct talks with Washington, but rejected any preconditions.

Ahmadinejad did not say whether Iran would accept the Western package of incentives, which were presented Tuesday by the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

Its contents have not been made public, but diplomats have said the package includes economic rewards and a provision for some U.S. nuclear technology if Iran halts enriching uranium a major concession by Washington. World powers also have suggested the length of the proposed enrichment suspension could be subject to negotiation, diplomats said.

The offer, however, also contains the implicit threat of U.N. sanctions if Iran remains defiant.

Iran's initial reaction to the package was relatively upbeat. But Tehran has said it will only announce its position after carefully studying the package. Solana said he expects a reply within "weeks."

In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the U.S. offer for direct talks with Iran was a "big step forward." France's foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, gave a similar assessment and added that "it is up to the Iranians to respond."

Ahmadinejad's speech, broadcast live on Iranian state television, hit back with hard-line rhetoric.

Iran's "enemies must know that whether the Iranian nation is going to hold talks or not, whether you frown or not . . . the Iranian nation will not retreat from the path of progress and obtaining advanced technology one iota," he said.

He also praised Iran for standing up to "international monopolists," a reference to the United States and its allies.

They have "been defeated in the face of your resistance and solidarity and have been forced to acknowledge your dignity and greatness," Ahmadinejad told the crowd.

In Vienna, Austria, the report circulated to the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had slowed uranium enrichment in recent weeks but also continued experiments with the technology.

The document also said U.N. inspectors had made little progress on clearing up worrying aspects of Tehran's past nuclear activity.

Specifically, the three-page report said Iran still declined to clarify Ahmadinejad's statements that his country had experimented with advanced centrifuges that speed up enrichment.

Iran also refused to provide more information on a document showing how to compress fissile material into the shape used for warheads, the report said. Tehran also declined to allow interviews of nuclear officials linked to potentially worrying finds by inspectors, it said.

The senior U.N. official, who is familiar with the report, said it contained nothing that significantly hardened or diminished concerns about Iranian nuclear ambitions since the last IAEA report in late April.

--Associated Press writer George Jahn in Vienna, Austria, contributed to this report.



Middle East

By Elaine Sciolino

New York Times
June 9, 2006


PARIS -- Iran restarted important nuclear activities on the same day this week that six world powers offered it incentives aimed at encouraging the complete suspension of the nuclear work, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Iran restarted the pouring of a raw form of uranium into a set of 164 centrifuge machines to produce enriched uranium, said the I.A.E.A., the nuclear monitoring agency based in Vienna.

That same day, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, was in Tehran, where he presented Iranian leaders with an international package of incentives to help resolve the crisis caused by the country's nuclear program.

There was no explanation for Iran's decision. But it seemed to underscore its often stated determination not to be bullied into accepting any deal requiring it to end activities related to uranium enrichment.

The decision also could be intended to win more concessions from the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany, which proposed the incentives package.

The revelation is likely to stiffen the resolve of the United States and the Europeans in particular that a complete freeze of uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities is a condition for formal negotiations.

In April, Iran succeeded in enriching uranium to the low levels needed to fuel a nuclear reactor. Later that month, without explanation, it stopped introducing the raw form of uranium into the fast-spinning centrifuge machines that concentrate uranium into material that can fuel nuclear reactors or bombs. The empty machines continued to run, which is necessary to prevent them from wobbling and crashing.

Iran has continued to enrich uranium in two test centrifuges, so there was never a total halt, the agency report said, and Iran is continuing to build two more 164-centrifuge networks as part of its long-term plan to enrich more uranium.

The report also said that the agency's inspectors had found new traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment in Iran. But the agency has not yet determined whether the traces came from equipment Iran had bought from an outside source or from its own enrichment.

The report also found fault with Iran for failing to make progress on a number of longstanding issues of concern about Iran's nuclear program that have eroded the I.A.E.A.'s confidence in the country.

The report was sent to the 35 countries on the I.A.E.A.'s decision-making board in advance of its regularly scheduled meetings in Vienna next week. It was distributed on a confidential basis but was quickly made available to reporters.

Reports of the apparent slowdown of the uranium enrichment had caused speculation that Iran -- or at least part of its leadership -- might be trying to send a positive signal to the world and to find a face-saving way out of its nuclear quandary.

Another explanation for the slowdown had been that Iran was having difficulties mastering the process of producing nuclear fuel in the centrifuges. The decision to restart enrichment could be an effort to show that it was not having such problems.

Mr. Solana, apparently unaware of the critical I.A.E.A. report, was upbeat in remarks to reporters in Paris on Thursday. "I am more optimistic than pessimistic," he said after emerging from a meeting about the Iran crisis with President Jacques Chirac of France. Calling the incentives package "a pretty, beautiful package," he said it provided a way for the Iranians to extricate themselves from the crisis over their nuclear program.

"What is needed is to work with them with respect," Mr. Solana said, adding that the countries that made the offer had "the intention to work with them in the most constructive fashion possible."

Mr. Solana, who has emerged as the interlocutor for the six world powers with Iran, also said that "weeks, the coming days, will be enough for a first response" from Iran. He has expressed willingness to engage in pre-negotiation with Iran and even to return there if more clarification is needed. Whether Iran's new production of nuclear fuel would affect the strategy was not known.

In Washington, the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said the United States was still hopeful that Iran would respond positively to the incentives package, but declined to comment in the report that Iran had moved into a new phase of uranium enrichment.

In his first public comments since Iran was presented with the incentives package, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran was willing to restart negotiations to resolve misunderstandings, but would never give up its "rights," code for what Iran has consistently said is its sovereign right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"On behalf of the Iranian nation, I'm announcing that the Iranian nation will never hold negotiations about its inalienable rights with anybody, but we are for talks about mutual concerns to resolve misunderstandings in the international arena," he told a crowd of thousands in the city of Qazvin.

He stopped short of categorically stating that Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, as the six nations demand it do before negotiations begin on the incentives.

"If they think they can threaten and hold a stick over Iran's head and offer negotiations at the same time, they should know the Iranian nation will definitely reject such an atmosphere," he said.

As the incentives proposal was being drafted last month, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that accepting it would be like exchanging "candies for gold."