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Iran Nuclear Talks Extended as They Reach an Impasse Over Sanctions

Posted on the 24 May 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Mahmud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran

Mahmud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran. Photo credit: UN Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen

The background

Talks about Iran’s nuclear programme on the 23rd May  have extended for another day, reported the BBC, which said that 6 world powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany) had asked Iran to stop processing medium-enriched uranium. They offered medical isotopes, and co-operation on nuclear safety in exchange for allowing inspectors in to ensure that the enrichment is for peaceful activities only. Iran, however has claimed that enrichment is its right, though it’s often claimed that it’s not seeking to make weapons. It’s also asked for sanctions to be eased – in particular, an oil embargo from the EU. These talks follow on from those in Istanbul a month ago. Commentators say that the Iranians are at least coming to the table for talks – but are they keeping things back?

“Without strengthening the current painful sanctions, Iran will continue towards a nuclear capability. We must not blink, give up or capitulate until the very last minute,” said Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak, quoted on The Telegraph.

What Tehran and Israel say

State run IRNA news-agency, reported Voice of America, said that Tehran thought the package offered by the 6 powers expected too much of Iran and gave too little in return. Israeli officials have “expressed concern that Iran will make empty promises of concessions to buy more time to covertly develop nuclear weapons.”

 What the West says

The Guardian reported that western officials were pleased that there had been a talk at all – “barring a walkout by the Iranian delegation”, the talks should continue into the next round. There had even been a certain amount of common ground.

What the problems are

The problem is, said Steven Erlanger, in a transcript of PBS’ Newshour, that the uranium is close to weapons grade, which “makes not just the Israelis nervous, but also the Saudis and the Gulfies.” Whilst there were lots of questions to be answered, Iran was avoiding answering them. Differences between the countries emerge when it comes to thinking about keeping pressure on Iran – Russia, for instance, wants to lift sanctions, but the US and the EU want to increase them. Suzanne Maloney on the same programme suggested that there was “a bit of brinkmanship going on” with the Iranians giving little and the US not wanting to pull back.

The West should stay firm

Iran ought to come to terms, said James Phillips in The Washington Post, since sanctions are hitting it hard, and will only get worse. But Iran has always sacrificed its economic interests for its “revolutionary Islamist goals.” It’s always been good at “exploiting diplomatic talks to forestall international pressure,” and has continuously defied UN resolutions regarding its nuclear programme. It has “enough enriched uranium to build at least four nuclear weapons.” The stakes are high. Washington should stand firm, and ask Iran to transfer its uranium elsewhere and close down its facilities. Iran won’t do this “meekly.” But sanctions should remain until Iran halts its activities. But Russia and China will want sanctions to be softened, reported Time: so it looks like a bit of a standoff.


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