Iran Nuclear Talks Spark Skepticism (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By JAY SOLOMON and JOE PARKINSON ISTANBUL, TURKEY 04/16/12)
WALL STREET JOURNAL
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ISTANBUL—Renewed negotiations between Iran and international powers
over Tehran´s nuclear program this weekend already are facing fire
from Israel and American lawmakers, who fear the Islamic Republic is
seeking to use the revived diplomatic track to forestall additional
economic sanctions while continuing to advance its nuclear work.
This skepticism toward the talks, which will go into a second round
on May 23 in Baghdad, illustrates the tight political space U.S.
President Barack Obama and his diplomatic partners face as they seek
to peacefully end the standoff over Iran´s nuclear program, which has
fueled higher global energy prices and sparked fears of war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu´s government has continued
to threaten to take military action against Iran´s nuclear sites if
diplomacy appears futile.
And leading U.S. lawmakers on Sunday again pledged to enact new
economic sanctions on Tehran if it doesn´t immediately abide by
United Nations resolutions calling for it to freeze its production of
"My initial impression is that Iran has been given a ´freebie´ " Mr.
Netanyahu said on Sunday. "It has got five weeks to continue
enrichment without any limitation, any inhibition."
On Saturday, Iran met in Istanbul with the five permanent members of
the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, for the first direct talks
on Tehran´s nuclear program in 15 months.
American and European diplomats kept expectations low heading into
the meetings, arguing that the most positive outcome likely would be
an agreement to hold a second round. These officials said they were
interested in testing Tehran´s willingness to seriously engage on the
nuclear issue amid mounting economic sanctions targeting Iran´s oil
exports and financial sector.
The international bloc, known as the P5+1, held more than 10 hours of
talks with the Iranian delegation, headed by chief negotiator Saeed
Jalili, on Saturday. U.S. and European diplomats said afterward that
Tehran appeared committed to the talks, which both sides agreed to
reconvene in Iraq next month.
"We want now to move to a sustained process of serious dialogue,"
said the European Union´s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who
led the P5+1 bloc. "We expect that subsequent meetings will lead to
concrete steps toward a comprehensive negotiated solution."
Deputies to Ms. Ashton and Mr. Jalili will meet in coming weeks to
lay out a clear negotiating framework for the Baghdad talks, said the
American and European officials acknowledged Saturday that they
didn´t press Iran to take any specific actions to curb its nuclear
program during the Istanbul meetings.
Washington and Brussels have been clear in recent months that they
are first seeking to curb or eliminate the most-threatening element
of Iran´s nuclear program—in particular, the production and
stockpiling of the near weapons-grade uranium at underground bunkers.
They are also seeking to gain greater access for international
inspectors into nuclear sites inside Iran that the U.N. believes may
be involved in atomic weapons development.
U.S. officials also stressed that the Obama administration won´t ease
its economic pressure on Tehran until the Iranian government
takes "concrete steps" to address concerns that it is developing
atomic weapons, a charge it denies. These officials said they believe
Iran showed a greater willingness to engage, precisely as a result of
its growing economic malaise.
"There is no reason to believe yet that we will make all the progress
we want to make," said a senior American diplomat who took part in
the talks. "This is a very difficult process.…It takes time to do
these very complex things."
Indeed, Mr. Jalili offered few indications on Saturday that Iran was
ready to comply with the international community´s demands. He said
Tehran would continue to enrich uranium to levels close to 20%
purity, near weapons grade. And he said Tehran expected U.S., U.N.
and EU sanctions to be lifted as the dialogue continued.
"We deeply believe that the removal of sanctions, which is demanded
by the Iranian nation, is one of the issues which should receive
attentions in the trend of talks on cooperation," Mr. Jalili told a
news conference in Turkey on Saturday.
Leading American lawmakers on Sunday countered that Congress would
intensify sanctions if Tehran didn´t immediately freeze its
production of nuclear fuel.
"We should not mistake positive diplomatic dialogue for compliance
with U.N. Security Council resolutions," said a spokesman for Sen.
Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), who has led congressional efforts to pressure
Iran´s finances. "The Senate should move forward with new bipartisan
sanctions unless the Iranian government halts all uranium enrichment
activities." (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 04/16/12)
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