World powers await Iran's reaction to nuclear offer

ALMATY Thu Apr 4, 2013 6:13pm EDT

Top officials from the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and Iran take part in talks on Iran's nuclear programme in Almaty February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

Top officials from the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and Iran take part in talks on Iran's nuclear programme in Almaty February 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

Related Topics

ALMATY (Reuters) - World powers will urge Iran on Friday to accept their offer to ease some economic sanctions if it stops its most sensitive nuclear work, in talks aimed at easing tensions that threaten to boil over into war.

The six powers - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - will meet Iranian negotiators in the Kazakh city of Almaty for the second round of talks this year, aiming to settle a decade-old dispute over Tehran's nuclear work.

With an Iranian presidential election in June complicating decision-making in Tehran, there is little chance of a breakthrough, but Israel has indicted its patience with diplomacy is running out.

Israel has threatened to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities if Tehran does not curb the activities it suspects are aimed at making a nuclear bomb.

Without a conclusive deal in sight, Western diplomats are hoping for at least a serious discussion of specific points of their proposal, made at the last talks in February.

"We hope that Iran comes prepared, makes a substantive and concrete response that really enters into serious ... negotiations to meet the international community's concerns," a senior U.S. administration official said on Wednesday.

Iran has resisted international pressure, arguing its uranium enrichment is for peaceful purposes only and therefore should be allowed to continue, under international law.

Its negotiators arrived in Almaty with their own proposals, the Iranian media reported without giving any details. Chief negotiator Saeed Jalili struck a defiant tone.

"We think our talks tomorrow can go forward with one word. That is the acceptance of the rights of Iran, particularly the right to enrichment," Jalili said in a speech at a Kazakh university.

World powers say Tehran has relinquished that right by hiding its nuclear work from United Nations inspectors in the past and refusing to grant them full access.

Talks were due to start at 10:30 a.m. (12.30 a.m. EDT) and last through Saturday.

AT ALL COST

If they fail to produce sufficient progress, Western governments are likely impose new economic sanctions, with the double aim of pressuring Tehran while seeking to persuade Israel to hold back from any military action.

In Israel, widely assumed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. senators that Tehran's nuclear work must be stopped.

"We cannot allow a situation in which a regime that calls for our annihilation has the weapons of annihilation. And I think that must be stopped at all cost," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama sought to cool tempers during a trip to Israel in March, saying diplomacy was the best option, but he alluded to the possibility of last-resort military action.

Experts say Iran would likely seek to keep diplomacy on track ahead of the election, in part to avert new sanctions, but without coming close to any deal.

There is broad unity within the Iranian political establishment on pursuing the nuclear program. Policy on the issue is directed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, rather than by the president.

"The nuclear talks will be affected by the election insofar as the leadership is concerned about maintaining internal stability throughout the election," said Emanuele Ottolenghi, of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think-tank that has advised the U.S. government on sanctions against Iran.

At the core of the powers' concerns is Iran's enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, a level that closes an important technological gap en route to making weapons-grade material.

During the last meeting in Almaty in February the powers told Iran to stop producing such uranium, ship out most of its stockpile and shutter its Fordow facility, buried deep in a mountain near the city of Qom.

In return, they offered to ease a ban on trade in gold and other precious metals and an import ban on Iranian petrochemical products.

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (17)
Fromkin wrote:
“World powers say Tehran has relinquished that right by hiding its nuclear work from United Nations inspectors in the past and refusing to grant them full access.”

Iran has never hidden its nuclear work which is the most inspected by IAEA. Even if it did there is no clause in the NPT saying that if a country hides its nuclear work it relinquishes its rights to enrich uranium.

All the countries that are signatories to the NPT have equal rights and obligations. If the US were caught hidding its nuclear work, would it accept relinquishing its rights to enrichment?

Apr 04, 2013 7:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bobber1956 wrote:
Fromkin

“Tehran has relinquished that right by hiding its nuclear work from United Nations inspectors in the past and refusing to grant them full access.”-That is true.

“Iran has never hidden its nuclear work which is the most inspected by IAEA”-Thats a lie.

“If the US were caught hidding its nuclear work, would it accept relinquishing its rights to enrichment?”-We do not need to enrich.

Your entire comment is stupid and pointless. Not to mention bigoted and senseless.

Iran should but won’t consider it self fortunated the UN has had this much tolerence with them. There are a lot of people that feel this last, let us hope it is the LAST, offer should not have been made. I agree. Personally I think it is the UN’s job at this point to keep every one else out of the way and let Israel deal with this constant threat on their “existance”-to quote Iran.

Apr 04, 2013 8:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
tizneh wrote:
At this point, to say that Israel is “widely assumed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East” is just plain wrong. Everyone in the world knows that it is. Jane’s Defence Weekly certainly knows it. The former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert even admitted that Israel was a nuclear power in an interview on German TV (cf. “Debate on Olmert’s Nuclear Slip”, BBC, 12/13/06. )

Israel has a policy of nuclear “ambiguity”: neither admitting nor denying, etc. But there is no reason that reporters have to go along with this.

Funny how Iran’s lack of candor about its nuclear program raises hackles, but Israel can get away with “ambiguity”, with not signing the NPT and with threatening pre-emptive strikes on a state which did not, in fact, threaten its “annihilation” and which is, at most, trying to build a nuclear capacity. Our own officials, such as Panetta, have said that it has not yet made the decision to weaponize.

Israel really expects to play by its own set of rules and to force the rest of us into a war to defend its nuclear monopoly. But reporters can’t actually put things that way, can they?

Apr 04, 2013 8:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.