Iran has nowhere to hide in Baghdad talks: analysts (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Simon Sturdee 04/14/12)
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Iran´s agreement in talks Saturday with world powers for a more in-
depth meeting in Baghdad on May 23 is the tiniest of steps in what
will be a long and difficult road to restoring trust, analysts said.
"It´s too early to say whether or not we´ve turned a corner," Peter
Crail, analyst at the Arms Control Association think-tank in
Washington, told AFP.
"An agreement to begin a negotiations process that can dig deeper
into these high-stakes and highly technical issues was as good as we
could have expected. There´s still much work to be done," he said.
What happened here on Saturday "cannot be called a breakthrough. If
there is a breakthrough, it would come at the next meeting," agreed
Bruno Tertrais, senior research fellow at the Foundation for
Strategic Research (FRS) in Paris.
"It is only when both sides have agreed on the next steps ... and
when whatever Iran will agree to can be verified, that we will be
able to say for certain that something real has happened. Until then
it´s only talk," he said.
In particular, Iran will have no option, if it is to relieve some of
the current international pressure, than to commit to what EU foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton and the White House late Saturday
called "concrete steps".
This is likely to include most notably scaling back the enrichment of
uranium to purities of 20 percent, which Tehran says is to produce
medical isotopes but which, if processed further, can also be used in
a nuclear weapon.
This more than anything has sparked fears in the international
community, not least in Israel, that the real purpose of Iran´s
nuclear activities is to get the bomb, a charge the Islamic regime
Iran did little to soothe such such concerns in January when the UN
nuclear watchdog said Tehran had begun to enrich at the Fordo site,
deep inside a virtually impregnable mountain bunker near the holy
city of Qom.
Iran might also be able to reconfigure its centrifuges at the site to
enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels of 90 percent if it decided to
go for broke and make nuclear weapons, experts say.
Western powers will in Baghdad also press Iran to grant the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to sites that at
present are off-limits and help soothe fears that Tehran has other
covert sites, as Fordo was until 2009.
To allow this Iran would need to implement the so-called "additional
protocol" of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that Iran, as a NPT
signatory, briefly adhered to but dropped in 2006, analysts said.
The IAEA itself regularly says in its quarterly reports that since
Iran is "not providing the necessary cooperation" it is "unable to
provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear
material and activities."
Another way to relieve pressure could be the revival of previous
attempts at a deal whereby other countries supply nuclear fuel in
return for Iran sending some of its uranium stockpiles abroad.
But Iran is unlikely to give any ground, analyst say, without some
sort of commitment that in return, the UN Security Council and
Western countries will ease some of the sanctions piled on Tehran in
This though is far from certain, Tertrais at the FRS told AFP.
"Assuming mutual steps can be agreed upon, there is a whole de-
esclation process which is conceivable," he said.
A first step would be to agree not to impose further sanctions, after
that to freeze some of the existing sanctions and only then to lift
some of the existing sanctions, he said.
But he added: "I cannot imagine that the P5+1 would agree to the
second and third steps without some real demonstrable and verified
steps by Iran."
Mark Hibbs, analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, told AFP that "getting Iran and the US to directly engage
bilaterally would give this process a shot in the arm, provided there
is political will on both sides."
But in a reminder of Tehran´s enmity towards Washington, a source
close to Iran´s delegation said they had spurned a request from their
US counterparts for what would have been a rare bilateral meeting on
the sidelines in Istanbul.
"Israel is in the background which both in Iran and in the P5+1 has
focused people´s minds. They know there is not a lot of time," Hibbs
said. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse. 04/14/12)
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