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Gulf monarchies reject ‘provocative’ Iran talks idea

The Gulf monarchies on Thursday rejected as a provocation an Iranian proposal to include the Syria crisis and the situation in Bahrain on the agenda of upcoming talks on Tehran’s nuclear program.

The head of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Abdellatif Zayani, announced the “total rejection” of the Iranian proposition, calling it “a provocation” and “interference in the internal affairs of Arab states.”

He was reacting to comments by Iran’s deputy minister for Asian affairs, Abbas Araghchi, who was cited by the Mehr news agency on Tuesday as saying Tehran had “proposed that the crises in Syria and Bahrain be the subject of talks with the Western powers in Kazakhstan.”

It was a way of “mixing up the cards,” which reflected “Iran’s procrastination and lack of seriousness in reaching a settlement that puts an end to regional and international concerns over its nuclear programme,” Zayani said in a statement.

Iran’s charge d’affaires was summoned on Thursday by Bahrain’s foreign ministry, where he was handed a note of protest, the official BNA news agency reported.

The Iranian proposal was “an interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs and a violation of sovereignty,” which “stirs regional tensions and instability,” the agency added.

Saudi Arabia's Prince Saud added, “we are seeking neither conciliation nor a settlement between Iran and any entity that wants to negotiate with it. Instead, we are seeking a solution to evade any increase in nuclear weapons in the Middle East. We would like to see a nuclear-free Middle East, as this is the policy we are pursuing.”

Relations between Iran and the GCC have plunged to a new low, with Tehran suspected of supporting Shiite opposition protests in Bahrain against the Sunni monarchy.

The Islamic Republic is also a staunch ally of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, while the Gulf monarchies are key backers of the rebels in the conflict that has raged for almost two years and cost tens of thousands of lives.

Fears of a nuclear weapon

The comments by the Gulf States come less than two weeks before Iran and the so-called P5+1 - Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany - are due to resume discussions in Kazakhstan, eight months after they were suspended.

The talks aim to address a key Western concern about Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium to fissile purities of 20 percent, a process that can be used for peaceful atomic purposes as well as for making the core of a nuclear bomb.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal Tuesday criticized Iran’s lack of cooperation with the international community and called on Iran to be more forthcoming about its nuclear program to remove any doubts that surround its peaceful use.

Iran recently sought to garner tens of thousands of specialized magnets that are commonly used in centrifuge machines, sparking concerns that the country is planning a major expansion of its nuclear program.

Purchase orders, copies of which were obtained by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and shown to The Washington Post, show an attempt, by the Iranians, to buy 100,000 ring-shaped magnets.

The magnets are currently banned from export to Iran under a U.N. resolution. However the order was requested from China about one year ago. It is not clear whether the attempt was successful.

The order is considered unusual due to its sheer size and due to the nature of the items. Iran has allegedly ordered enough magnets to, theoretically, outfit 50,000 new centrifuges reported the Washington Post on Thursday.

Iran recently announced that it plans to add thousands of more advanced, second generation centrifuges to its current lineup. This will allow the country to ramp up production of enriched uranium even further state experts.

The purchase orders have sparked concern abroad.

“They are positioning themselves to make a lot of nuclear progress quickly,” said a European diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Each step forward makes the situation potentially more dangerous.”

Engineers in Iran installed more than 1,000 new IR-1 centrifuge machines at the country’s largest uranium plant, close to the city of Natanz. This adds to the 9,000 IR-1 machines currently in operation, said officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Furthermore, 2,800 IR-1s have been installed near the city of Qom at a small enrichment plant built beneath a mountain.

U.S. intelligence officials have not commented on the magnet case.

According to an ISIS investigation the company that placed the order had previously been linked to Iran’s attempts to acquire controversial technology.

The recent move would shorten Iran’s timeline to obtaining nuclear weapons capability.

“Adding new machines just means you get there a lot faster,” a Western diplomat privy to internal IAEA reports said.

A U.N. watchdog report, outlining Iran’s nuclear attempts, will be released this week.