U.S., France, Russia maintain unity on Iran

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States, Russia and France agreed to maintain a united front on a proposal to enrich Iranian uranium, the White House said.

President Obama spoke Saturday with his French and Russian counterparts, separate White House statements said. In each conversation, Obama thanked the leader for cooperating in a proposal that would remove Iran’s low-enriched uranium to Russia and then France for further enrichment to levels useful in medical research, but well short of levels appropriate for nuclear weapons.

Iran welcomed the offer when it was proposed last month, but presented with a detailed version last Friday said it needed a week to consider it.

In the past, Iran joined equivocation on proposed formulas to end its isolation and stymie its suspected nuclear weapons program with efforts to sow disagreement between the major powers. Obama’s statements appeared to be a signal that a united front was in place.

"Both presidents also underscored the need to maintain Russian and American unity in pursuing our mutual concerns about Iran’s nuclear program," said the statement describing the conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Similarly, the statement recounting the call with French President Nicolas Sarkozy concluded that "The two leaders expressed U.S.-French unity on Iran, and agreed to continue their close consultations in the weeks ahead."

Last Friday, the U.S. State Department spokesman suggested that the United States was not ready to give Iran more than the week it requested.

"We would have preferred to have a response today," Ian Kelly told reporters after Iran had delivered its reply to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog. "We approach this with a sense of urgency. The international community’s been waiting a long time for the — for Iran to address some of our real concerns about their intentions. But we — all along, we have said that the IAEA is taking the lead on this, and we hope that there’s no more delays than these next few days."

Iran allowed IAEA inspectors into its uranium enrichment plant at Qom on Sunday. The existence of the site at Qom — the second such site — was not public until Obama revealed it last month, citing intelligence reports. Iran, days earlier, had informed the IAEA of the plant’s existence.

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