From The LA Times, November 15, 2008 by Borzou Daragahi:
...World powers this week failed to come up with a unified strategy to press Iran on halting controversial elements of its nuclear program, as a report emerged suggesting the country had made progress in advancing a little-examined feature of its atomic infrastructure.
....Moscow's Interfax news agency quoted Russian diplomat Sergei Ryabkov, who attended the meeting, as saying the parties had struck no deal on sanctions. "The Western countries are for the sanctions," he was quoted as saying. "China, like Russia, did not back it."
Meanwhile, a report released this week says Iran has made significant progress at another facility: a heavy-water research reactor being built near the city of Arak, which could eventually produce plutonium that might be used in a nuclear weapon.
According to satellite images published by the Institute for Science and International Security, construction at the Arak plant progressed significantly between February and October."It's slipped everyone's notice," said David Albright, a former arms inspector and president of the Washington-based institute. "If you look at the satellite image, it's really making progress. In a year and a half, it's gone from building frames to largely finished."...
... hopes of imposing another set of U.N. Security Council sanctions before the end of President Bush's term are fading.
Russia and China, which hold veto power on the Security Council, have resisted new sanctions. Unlike Washington, Moscow and Beijing have close political and business ties with Iran and feel no domestic pressure to act against the Islamic Republic.
Amid the diplomatic maneuvering, Tehran continues to edge forward in nuclear and missile skills.
Some Israeli officials have voiced alarm about Iran's test-firing this week of a solid-fuel, two-stage rocket with a range of 1,200 miles. Tel Aviv is about 650 miles from Iran."This is a whole new missile," Uzi Rubin, an Israeli missile expert, told Jane's, the British-based defense and military publication."It demonstrates a significant leap in Iran's missile capabilities," Rubin said.
IAEA inspectors predict the heavy-water reactor near Arak won't be completed until 2011. Such plants produce relatively large quantities of weapons-grade plutonium that can be extracted from spent uranium fuel through a type of reprocessing plant that Iran neither has nor says it wants.
But in its Nov. 13 report ... the Institute for Science and International Security cites evidence gathered by IAEA inspectors that suggests Iran could be planning such a facility, which is relatively easy to build. ...the Arak plant could potentially produce about 20 pounds of plutonium a year, enough for two nuclear weapons. Physicists say it is easier to design and build a nuclear weapon using plutonium than one using enriched uranium.