Sunday 25 February 2018

David Blair: Iran sits down with top powers for new game of nuclear poker

David Blair

They came, they talked and they laid out starkly differing positions. Yesterday's meeting between Iran and the world's six leading powers in Baghdad was hardly the stuff of breakthroughs, yet by the modest standards of diplomacy with Tehran, the fact that the two sides talked in detail about what divides them counted as progress of sorts.

Amid all the rhetoric, this dispute centres on one issue: Iran's insistence on its right to enrich uranium. This highly sensitive process could be used to produce uranium enriched to the 3.5pc purity needed to run nuclear power stations -- and Iran adamantly maintains that is the sole aim -- or to the 90pc needed for the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

The safest option would be for Iran not to enrich at all, hence six United Nations resolutions make that demand. But the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) grants all signatories the right to enrich, provided they obey the relevant safeguards.

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