The diplomatic efforts continued and in January 2011 talks were held in Istanbul between Iran and so called P5-plus-1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, US and Germany. P5-plus-1 sought to negotiate a revised version of nuclear fuel swap proposal and vase to improve transparency through monitoring measures by IAEA. Iran, however, insisted on recognition of its rights to enrich uranium and the lifting of sanctions as a pre condition for talks as a possible nuclear fuel swap. The talks failed but both sides termed them as ‘positive’ and “door remains open”.
The recent announcement to triple the enrichment capacity and transfer 20% enrich uranium to Fardo has heightened the existing concern and tension. US is contemplating to extend the sanctions net. The Fardo plant was built secretly deep inside a mountain near the holy city of Qum. In February this year, Iran informed IAEA that Fardo plant was prepared to keep centrifuges and would become operational in summer.
Iran’s latest move has prompted US to launch a fresh campaign to enlist greater international support against Iran. Secretary Clinton has reiterated US resolve not to let Iran ever develop atomic arms and has urged Arabs to confront Iran for promoting tensions and instability in region.
Iran’s riposte has been a statement by President Ahmedi Nijad accusing US of planning to sabotage Pakistani nuclear facilities. “We have precise information that America wants to sabotage the Pakistani nuclear facilities in order to control Pakistan and weaken its government and people. The US would then make use of the UNSC and some other international bodies as levers to prepare the ground for massive presence and weaken sovereignty of Pakistan”, he told a press conference in Tehran.
The alarming statement has fallen on receptive ears as there are growing apprehensions in Pakistani public based on a host of media reports of US design on Pakistan nukes. It is a subtle move on the part of Iran to reach out to anti-American lobby, play on the fears of Pakistanis and weaken American position in the Muslim world. How affective this strategy would be is yet to be seen, but it certainly enlarges the scope of controversy and face-off.
What ever the motivation or truth behind these allegations, Pakistan must reckon it seriously. The increasing scary scenario in the US and western media about the possibilities of Pakistan’s nuclear assets falling into the hand of extremist should cause us deep reflection and concern and demand higher security profile for our nuclear assets.