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Iran Advances as West Argues Over Bushehr

Even though the Islamic Republic remains in defiant violation of the United Nations Security Council’s demand that it cease enrichment operations by August 31, Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, said that Tehran is anxious to restart nuclear talks regarding its nuclear program. Said the ambassador, “I am certain that Iran is ready for talks to begin as soon as possible, all issues can be discussed during these negotiations.” But the United States believes that Iran’s claims of being willing to discuss ‘all issues’ is little more than a stalling tactic, designed to buy the regime more time, month by month, for furthering its nuclear weapons program.

The United States likely does not view it coincidental that Iran’s re-stated desires for more talks, a call that is made by Iran on almost a daily basis, is accompanied today with news that a second Iranian 164-centrifuge cascade is in place and will soon be ready for operation. This according to IAEA head Mohammed ElBaredei, who said yesterday that “based on our most recent inspections, the second centrifuge cascade is in place and ready to go.” ElBaredei remains unconvinced that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, adding, “The jury is still out on whether they are developing a nuclear weapon.”

Also today, even as Russia recently earlier vowed to oppose and punishment of Iran through UN sanctions, implying a veto vote, reports today suggest that the United States and European diplomats are arguing over the Russian construction of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor. It had been reported earlier that the two sides had come to agreement that a waiver would be included in the sanctions language that would permit Russia to complete the construction of the Bushehr nuclear facility, worth an estimated US$800 million to cash-strapped Moscow. This idea came under immediate criticism as being contrary to the principle of nuclear sanctions against Iran.

As Iran’s Russia ambassador renews the regime’s calls for talks, the Iranian President yesterday said that Iran’s nuclear capabilities have increased ten-fold before a supportive Tehran crowd, just days after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered his Jihad ultimatum to Europe.

His political rival, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the current Chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council, was reported in Iran’s state-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency as affirming once again that Iran “renounces nuclear arms in light of the ethical principles enshrined by Islam.” In a reference to World War II, he attempted to buttress this by saying, “The US which has brought Iranian nuclear program to the spotlight is the first country in the world that used nuclear weapon bringing eternal disgrace for itself. So, no other country would do so, because of subsequent disgrace.”

With the UN Security Council expected to take up consideration of Iran sanctions this week, all eyes will be on Russia following their pledge to oppose any punishment of Iran through sanctions. If the US and Europe cannot come to agreement on the issue of Russia’s construction of the plant at Bushehr, the Malaysia Star report cited a European diplomat who suggested that Europe may forgo the United States and circulate the document directly to Russia and China without American approval. This week could be a contentious week of diplomatic conflict for all involved as the issue of Iran sanctions nears the floor of the Security Council chambers.