‘Iran approaches talks weakened by sanctions’ (JERUSALEM POST) By JOANNA PARASZCZUK 04/09/12)
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Iran appeared to hold firm to its nuclear ambitions on Sunday as
nuclear talks loom and reports emerge that the US and its European
allies could demand that Iran halt its 20 percent uranium enrichment
and close its Fordo nuclear facility.
Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency,
told Iran’s ISNA news agency that the Islamic Republic will not close
its Fordo facility or cease enrichment.
However, Meir Javedanfar, an Iran expert at the IDC Herzliya, said
Iran’s stance ahead of the talks was a negotiating ploy, and that the
Islamic Republic would likely bring its own set of conditions to the
negotiating table, just as the West reportedly will.
“We are at the very beginning of negotiations, and we need to see how
much leverage each side has,” he added.
Iran’s position could include a declaration regarding the Islamic
Republic’s future rights to enrich uranium to any level it wishes, he
said. A deal struck by Iran with Brazil and Turkey in May 2010
included such a declaration of Iran’s “right to enrichment.”
In turn, the West may negotiate placing Iran’s nuclear facilities
under close inspection, Javedanfar said.
However, Javedanfar noted that time was not on Iran’s side in the
negotiations, because economic sanctions are putting the regime under
pressure, giving the West additional leverage.
“The West can walk away from any deal,” he said. “Iran is in a bad
Financial and trade sanctions against Iran, designed to squeeze its
nuclear program, have had severe social and economic effects, and
have led to rampant inflation and increased cost of goods.
In December, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the
official Islamic Republic News agency that the country “cannot
pretend the sanctions are not having an effect.”
Ultimately, Iran’s decision to accept any deal with the West would
depend heavily on the position of its Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini
Khamenei, and on how much pressure he was under internally,
“Iran is scared of the West and sees any US initiative as a regime
change,” he said.
On Friday, The Washington Post reported that US President Barack
Obama asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to convey to
Khamenei that the US would accept an Iranian civilian nuclear
program, if Tehran can prove that is what it is pursuing.
However, according to Javedanfar, Khamenei sees any improvement in US
relations with Iran as an “existential challenge” to the Iranian
While sanctions could also be an existential challenge, they are less
threatening to Khamenei than improved USIranian relations.
Javedanfar added that the West could put additional pressure on Iran
by offering to supply the Islamic Republic with medical isotopes
needed to treat cancer patients. Twentypercent enriched uranium is
the level required for such medical isotopes.
Iran claims that its nuclear program is for both medical reasons and
civilian nuclear power. On Sunday, the staterun Press TV quoted
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying during a meeting with former
Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama that Iran is not pursuing
anything beyond the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
If Iran’s claims are true then a Western offer to supply medical
isotopes would take away any justification for Iran to continue to
enrich at Fordo, Javedanfar said.
Such a move would also help destabilize the Iranian regime, because
it would improve goodwill between the Iranian people and the West.
Iran would likely reject such an offer, Javedanfar added.
“But it would delegitimize its cause for continuing enrichment,” he
said. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/09/12)
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