Killing Focuses Attention On Iran's Nuclear Program The Arab uprisings have dominated world leaders' attention, but the killing of an Iranian scientist and recent announcements by Tehran of nuclear advances have renewed scrutiny of the country's nuclear efforts. Meanwhile, the U.S. is persuading banks and other financial institutions to stop doing business with Iranian organizations.
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Killing Focuses Attention On Iran's Nuclear Program

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Killing Focuses Attention On Iran's Nuclear Program


On a Tuesday morning, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


The combination of those two events has focused attention on Iran's nuclear program and the efforts to keep it in check. NPR's Peter Kenyon is following the story from Istanbul.

PETER KENYON: The latest killing follows Tehran's announcement that it is installing a new generation of centrifuges to enhance its uranium enrichment program. Analyst Mark Fitzpatrick, with the Institute for International and Strategic Studies in London, says if Iran's claim is true, the number of more efficient, second- generation centrifuges may have increased from 20 to 164. He says while that is a cause for concern, it's also a sign of how hard it is for Iran to replace thousands of older centrifuges.

MARK FITZPATRICK: They have limitations on the amount of carbon fiber that they can import or produce, and there may be limitations in other components that restrict their capability to have many more than 164.

KENYON: Fitzpatrick says Iran's insistence that its program is entirely peaceful is widely doubted. But this year, Arab uprisings and international economic crises have dominated world leaders' attention. That, says Fitzpatrick, has left sanctions as the primary tool for dealing with Iran, even though additional U.N. sanctions are unlikely in the near term.

FITZPATRICK: And it's been a successful strategy, to persuade one company after another quietly to just stop doing business. This makes it harder for Iran to get the wherewithal to rapidly expand its programs.

KENYON: Geneva-based nuclear analyst Shahram Chubin says amid such strife, the nuclear program represents a point of national pride that crosses much of the political spectrum.

SHAHRAM CHUBIN: I think the point about this is that while the factions are hurting, and while Iran has domestic political differences, and while the regional upheaval has not clearly been in Iran's favor, there's still a certain inertia behind the program that makes it very difficult for them to stop or to reverse it.

KENYON: Chubin says a recent Russian proposal is similar to previous confidence-building efforts in that it proposes a step-by-step regime of increasing transparency by Iran about its program in return for easing of sanctions. He doesn't believe it will win favor in Tehran in the end.

CHUBIN: But from the Iranian point of view, their belief is that the nuclear program gives them a strong bargaining card, that with the United States drawing down in Iraq and eventually in Afghanistan, Iran is in the position to negotiate with the West a much better outcome than it would without the nuclear program.

KENYON: Peter Kenyon, NPR News.

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