By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON, April 8 The United States and its
allies will demand that Iran halt higher-grade uranium
enrichment and immediately close an underground nuclear facility
at a new round of talks this week over Tehran's nuclear standoff
with the West, a senior U.S. official said.
The negotiations between Iran and world powers - a
resumption of talks that collapsed more than a year ago - will
be held on April 14 in Istanbul, a spokesman for EU foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
The Obama administration sought to define the parameters for
the much-anticipated meeting, which it has said could represent
Tehran's last chance to resolve the nuclear dispute
A senior U.S. official said on Sunday that one of the
"near-term priorities" would be to get Iran to agree to
immediately shut its recently completed Fordow facility, built
under a mountain near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom.
The New York Times reported that negotiators for the West
would press Iran to ultimately dismantle the site, which is
reported to have been used to expand uranium enrichment.
Another key opening demand from Washington and its allies
will be for Iran to stop production altogether of 20 percent
enriched uranium, the administration official said.
Nuclear bombs require uranium enriched to 90 percent, but
much of the effort required to get there is already achieved
once it reaches 20 percent purity, shortening the time needed
for any nuclear weapons "break-out".
Iran has remained defiant, saying its program is for power
generation and producing isotopes for medical purposes, not for
But the U.N. Security Council has demanded a full suspension
of enrichment, both to the 20 percent and the 3.5 percent level,
and Washington has made clear that its broader goal is to make
sure that Iran abides by those requirements.
"Our position is clear: Iran must live up to its
international obligations, including full suspension of uranium
enrichment as required by multiple U.N. Security Council
resolutions," said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the White House
National Security Council.
President Barack Obama is under pressure at home to take a
tough line with Iran as he seeks re-election in November.
Republican presidential candidates have accused him of not
being hard enough on Iran, even as he has spearheaded
international sanctions that are taking a toll on the Iranian
economy and its vital oil sector.
He has pressed U.S. ally Israel to hold off on any
pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear sites to give sanctions and
diplomacy more time to work. But he has also declared that
military action remains an option as a last resort.