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September 13, 2011 12:35 pm

Iran Goes Nuclear; Distracts World Attention With Hiker Release

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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An Iranian soldier wearing a gas mask during the Iran-Iraq War.

News coming out of Iran during the week before the General Assembly could be categorized as stretching completely across the good/bad spectrum. Hope has been raised for two American families that their sons, jailed for “espionage” for two years, are to be freed. Ahmadinejad announced the upcoming release on NBC’s “Today” September 13.  Once a bail amount of $500,000 each is paid, says their lawyer, “they are allowed to leave Iran,” effectively commuting the eight year sentence recently handed down. A similar arrangement enabled, Sarah E. Shourd, arrested with them, to leave Iran last year.

The three Americans maintained their innocence throughout their captivity, saying that they wandered over an unmarked border by mistake. Announcing the anticipated freedom for the hikers on the same day that the 40% startup of its nuclear generating electrical announced is at least, interesting. International expectation of a dramatic “humanitarian gesture” appears to have been met.

In an apparent response to the mounting impact of international sanctions, Fereydoon Abbasi, head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, discussed the possibility of allowing “full supervision” of the country’s nuclear activities. On the same day as the hiker’s release, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, told the Iranian English language broadcast service, Press TV, that “Iran was ready for further talks with world powers ‘with respect to cooperation on common ground’ and said ‘misunderstanding’ about its nuclear program could be cleared up through “positive, constructive contacts.”

Iran continues to maintain that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful use and in a letter dated September 6, informed Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, it is ready for talks by “has no intention of backing down on its ‘rights.'” In the letter from Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, says Reuters, he discusses the “necessity of achieving a comprehensive, long-term and negotiated solution for both sides.”

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As it holds out an albeit very small, olive branch to the West, Iran and Russia have initiated a nuclear cooperation protocol “to ensure safety and further cooperation” at the Bushehr nuclear power plant located in southern Iran, a Russian built facility. The 1,000-megawatt plant is now generating electricity at up to 40 percent of capacity, with full operation anticipated by the end of March, according to Mohammad Ahmadian, deputy head of Iran’s atomic organization in charge of power plants

The startup is another step in Iran’s continuing pursuit of “peaceful” nuclear development. Ramin Mehmanparast claims that its nuclear enrichment program will continue to provide power to supply the long-delayed Bushehr nuclear power plant. He reiterated the statements sent to Catherine Ashton saying “we are ready to talk on common grounds and no change has taken place in Iran’s stance.” and that Iran “believes that dialogue is helpful for cooperation.”

The thin screen placed over its nuclear activities has not alleviated the concern of the International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA).  Its head, Yukiya Amano, said he is “increasingly concerned” with possible military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, asking Iran to cooperate fully the IAEA. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, a member of the IAEA, and has denied that its nuclear advancement has a military intention.US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said “We would note that Russia’s agreement with Iran on Bushehr provides that Russia will provide the fuel for Bushehr and will take back the spent fuel, (and) “in our view underscores the point that Iran doesn’t need its own enrichment facilities because it can receive fuel from the international community.”

In response to a question raised by the Algemeiner, Israel’s Minister for information Yuli Edelstein said that he remains “very worried about the threat of Iran, noting that Iran’s encouragement of terror presents a threat not only to Israel. Iran he said is “not a danger only to Israel, but has thousands of ‘diplomats’ in Latin America….It is a global problem that the world community should recognize.” He expressed hope that economic, international and other measures will be taken “before it is too late.”

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