Iran May Ignore Wednesday's Nuclear Deadline
Iran is not expected to meet Wednesday's U.N. deadline to suspend its enrichment of uranium. Today, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the nation is willing to discuss the issue, as long as there are no pre-conditions.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran is installing centrifuges needed to create weapons-grade uranium, but also said construction of a large-scale facility is way behind schedule. Even Iran's pilot program has had some problems.
A key Iranian official is in Vienna to meet with the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran is six months to a year away from being able to enrich large amounts of nuclear material. But intelligence reports indicate that the country is five to 10 years away from having a workable nuclear bomb.
Iran appears to have tried to speed up construction of an enrichment facility, but there are mixed reports about how fast the building is going up.
Recently, Ahmadinejad has toned down his rhetoric. Other Iranian leaders have warned that it may be unwise to confront the U.N. Security Council. Debate over the issue has opened up in Iran, and has even made it into Iran's conservative press.
Further complicating the calculus is Russia's announcement that it will slow construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran because of late payments. This development could indicate that Iran is strapped for cash, but it may also be Russia's way of applying diplomatic pressure.
The United States has brought pressure to bear, too, by sending a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. But top U.S. officials have said there is no intention of going to war with Iran.
If Iran misses Wednesday's U.N. deadline, it is uncertain whether the country will face heavier sanctions, as promised. If Russia, China, or the Europeans sense a crack in the Iranian position, the sanctions may be delayed.
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