WASHINGTON - According to articles published Thursday in the US press following the president's meeting with publicists on Wedneday, Barack Obama expressed his readiness to find an agreement on the nuclear issue. Columnists described him as "encouraged" by recent events, believing he has the upper hand in the confrontation with Iran.
Those present at the meeting with senior media figures, in which the president made a surprise appearance, said Obama had noted it was important to offer the Iranians a way to obtain nuclear power for peaceful purposes, so long as Iran offers confidence-building measures to prove they are not building atomic weapons.
Obama said there had been no contacts with Tehran, but emphasized he was following expressions of intent to engage in talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China) and Germany, apparently next month in Geneva.
It seems the US leader thinks this is the time for diplomacy, taking into account the news from Tehran that sanctions are affecting Iran more than they had previously thought. The effects include strikes by embittered traders protesting the deteriorating economic situation.
Technical problems in nuclear program
Obama's moves are based on evaluations that sanctions, agreed by the Security Council, the US Congress and the EU, are beginning to be felt, and that Tehran is encountering significant technical difficulties in its uranium enrichment project. This leaves more time for diplomatic efforts. Obama has used this tactic in the past – aiming for talks while stepping up sanctions.
It should be noted that Obama has sent two messages to Iran's supreme leader the Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, proposing talks, but received no response. Recently, messages have been sent via unofficial channels indicating that Iran is ready to return to the negotiating table.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that those technical problems are one of the reasons for the White House's growing confidence. The problems, it seems, are mainly due to "bad luck", faulty planning of the centrifuges or intentional sabotage. A senior US source claimed that only 3,800 centrifuges were operating in the Natnaz facility and at only 60% capacity. Another 4,000 centrifuges are not operational.
US administration sources say that because of these difficulties, Iran will find it hard to make a breakthrough and surprise the world with any nuclear achievements any time within the next year or two.
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