US gives Iran 'last chance' warning over shutting down nuclear facility

Obama demands concessions as crucial talks begin in Istanbul later this week

Iran must immediately close a large nuclear facility built underneath a mountain if it is to take what President Obama has called a "last chance" to resolve its escalating dispute with the West via diplomacy.

Other "near term" concessions which must be met in the early stages of talks to avoid a potential military conflict, include the suspension of higher level uranium enrichment, and the surrender by Tehran of existing stockpiles of the fuel, senior US officials said yesterday.

The demands were outlined as Iranian state TV announced that crucial negotiations over its disputed nuclear programme will begin in Istanbul on Friday, allaying fears that disagreements over the venue would derail the important and long-scheduled talks.

US diplomats, who will join counterparts from the UK, China, Russia, France and Germany, at the bargaining table, told reporters that they will insist on Iran's leadership giving up the Fordow enrichment plant, which is just outside the Shia holy city of Qom.

The facility is buried deep in a mountain, apparently to protect against air strikes, and is at the centre of Israeli fears that the country's military leadership is secretly developing weapons that could mount a long-range strike across international borders.

A senior US official told The New York Times that the White House has "no idea how the Iranians will react" to the demands, and "probably won't know after the first meeting".

But he said that more serious talks cannot proceed unless they are met. Another US source told Reuters that the country must also export its entire stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 per cent purity if they are to stave off potential military action, saying, "20 per cent and closing Fordow are near-term priorities" for the Obama administration.

The negotiations are hugely delicate, both on the international stage and in the US, where in the run-up to November's election, President Obama is anxious to challenge Republican claims that he has been "soft" on Iran.

Many of Mr Obama's predecessors have taken a gung-ho approach to foreign affairs prior to their re-election battles, perhaps banking on the theory that the patriotic fervour of an America at war is more likely to give its incumbent President a second term.

The current debate over Iran isn't quite so straightforward, though.

Firstly, there is no guarantee that the US electorate would back intervention there, given the cost and mixed outcome of their country's interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Secondly, an unpredictable conflict in the Middle East could cause oil prices to spiral, threatening America's economic recovery and directly impacting the financial resources of voters, who are already voicing disquiet at fuel costs that are approaching record levels.

With this in mind, the White House hopes to persuade its allies that a mixture of crushing sanctions and diplomacy can be more effective than intervention. It has repeatedly pressed Israel to hold off pre-emptive military strikes until sanctions are proven to have failed.

US intelligence agencies are convinced that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons programme in 2003. Recent surveillance operations, particularly by drones, have failed to provide any evidence that such operations have actually recommenced.

Iran, for its part, insists that the nuclear programme is designed for power generation and medical and scientific research. It has repeatedly rejected calls by the UN Security Council to suspend nuclear enrichment.

On paper, Iran's government may in any case find it tricky to give in to US demands to close Fordow. After recent domestic developments, they face growing threats to their powerbase, so are anxious to retain the appearance of political strength.

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Deputy Education Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager (permanent ...

Science Teacher Urgently required for October start

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

ICT Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...

Art & Design Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering