Iran, UN Inspectors Strike Deal on Eve of Nuclear Talks

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Common Dreams

Iran, UN Inspectors Strike Deal on Eve of Nuclear Talks

by
Common Dreams staff

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano (left) speaks during a press conference as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Said Jalili (right) looks on in Tehran on Monday. The IAEA will soon sign an accord with Iran aimed at trying to resolve disputes over its nuclear drive, the UN watchdog's chief Yukiya Amano said Tuesday. (AFP/Hamed Jafarnejad)

The UN’s nuclear watchdog - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - announced a deal with Iran to inspect their nuclear facilities, a day before a second round of talks between Iran and Western powers.

The IAEA inspectors have access to Iran’s nuclear sites already, so expectations are that the deal will deepen inspections, and possibly include suspending uranium enrichment above a certain level.

Speaking in Vienna after a high-profile two-day visit to Tehran on Monday, Yukiya Amano of the IAEA said "important" progress had been made on a framework plan and that an accord would be signed "quite soon."

In a statement released soon after Amano's announcement, Robert A. Wood, America's chief delegate to the nuclear agency, said "We urge Iran to take this opportunity to resolve all outstanding concerns about the nature of its nuclear program. Full and transparent cooperation with the IAEA is the first logical step."

The announced deal come on the eve of the next round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 - the US, Britain, Russia, China, and France plus Germany - slated to be held in the Iraqi capital city, Baghdad, on Wednesday, May 23.

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Iran's Press TV reports:

The upcoming talks between Iran and the six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear energy program serves as a litmus test for the West to show a sign of good faith to the Iranian side, a political analyst tells Press TV.

“Now is time for the West to take the first moves. So I think that in Baghdad, the Iranians will be waiting to see if the West is serious about resolving the issue or not”
- Mohammad Marandi, professor at the University of Tehran
“Now is time for the West to take the first moves. So I think that in Baghdad, the Iranians will be waiting to see if the West is serious about resolving the issue or not,” said Mohammad Marandi, professor at the University of Tehran, in a Monday interview.

The political commentator argued, “In the past, the Iranians have made many initial steps. They halted enrichment for two years, they applied additional protocol for a couple of years, and they signed the Tehran declaration, which the West basically refused.”

On May 17, 2010, foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, and Brazil signed a declaration in Tehran for swapping Iran's low-enriched uranium in exchange for 20-percent enriched nuclear fuel rods on Turkish soil.

However, the US and its European allies snubbed the trio's agreement which was issued as part of efforts to end the nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.

Marandi argued that the US “is trying to create a situation where there would be a never-ending process so that the Americans will have always the capability to put pressure on Iran.”

If the West expects extra steps from Tehran -- such as allowing further access to the Iranian nuclear sites -- they need to follow up their expectations “within the framework of a comprehensive solution,” the analyst added. [...]

The US, Israel and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Iran has repeatedly dismissed the Western allegations over its nuclear activities, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and an IAEA member, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

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The Associated Press reports:

A deal has been reached with Iran that will allow the U.N. nuclear agency to restart a long-stalled probe into suspicions that Tehran has secretly worked on developing nuclear arms, the U.N. nuclear chief said Tuesday.

The P5+1 hope the talks will result with Iran agreeing to stop enriching uranium to a higher level. But speculation is increasing that the P5+1 may allow Iran to maintain lower-level nuclear fuel production. Such a scenario would likely be greeted by Israel with dismay and widen rifts between President Barack Obama and Israeli officials who keep open the threat of military action against Iran's nuclear sites.The news from International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, who returned from Tehran on Tuesday, comes just a day before Iran and six world powers meet in Baghdad for negotiations and could present a significant turning point in the heated dispute over Iran's nuclear intentions. The six nations hope the talks will result in an agreement by the Islamic Republic to stop enriching uranium to a higher level that could be turned quickly into the fissile core of nuclear arms.

Iran denies it seeks nuclear arms and says its reactors are only for power and medical applications.

By compromising on the IAEA probe, Iranian negotiators in Baghdad could argue that the onus was now on the other side to show some flexibility and temper its demands. Although Amano's trip and the talks in Baghdad are formally separate, Iran hopes progress with the IAEA can boost its chances Wednesday in pressing the U.S. and Europe to roll back sanctions that have hit Iran's critical oil exports and blacklisted the country from international banking networks. [...]

In a statement released soon after Amano's announcement, Robert A. Wood, America's chief delegate to the nuclear agency, said Washington appreciated Amano's efforts but remained "concerned by the urgent obligation for Iran to take concrete steps to cooperate fully with the verification efforts of the IAEA, based on IAEA verification practices."

"We urge Iran to take this opportunity to resolve all outstanding concerns about the nature of its nuclear program," said the statement. "Full and transparent cooperation with the IAEA is the first logical step." [...]

U.S. officials have said Washington will not backpedal from its stance that Iran must fully halt uranium enrichment. But speculation is increasing that the priorities have shifted to block the 20 percent enrichment and perhaps allow Iran to maintain lower-level nuclear fuel production — at least for now.

Iranian officials could package such a scenario as a victory for their domestic audience. In Israel, it would likely be greeted with dismay and widen rifts between President Barack Obama's U.S. administration and Israeli officials who keep open the threat of military action against Iran's nuclear sites.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned against concessions, saying world powers should make "clear and unequivocal demands" that Iran stop all of its nuclear enrichment activity.

"Iran wants to destroy Israel and it is developing nuclear weapons to fulfill that goal," Netanyahu said at a conference in Jerusalem. "Against this malicious intention, leading world powers need to display determination and not weakness. They should not make any concessions to Iran." [...]

In a sign of ebbing market worries, oil prices have steadily fallen since Iran and world powers resumed talks in April in Istanbul. Fears of supply disruptions because of military conflict or Iranian shipping blockades helped drive prices above $106 a barrel earlier this year. Oil rose to slightly above $92 per barrel Monday in New York.

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