Iran Balks at Nuclear Offer, Calls for End to Sanctions (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By JAY SOLOMON and FARNAZ FASSIHI BAGHDAD, Iraq 05/24/12)
WALL STREET JOURNAL
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BAGHDAD—Hopes for a quick diplomatic breakthrough in talks here aimed
at containing Tehran´s nuclear program diminished as Iranians balked
at the lack of sanctions relief in a proposal made by global powers.
Negotiations that resumed Wednesday were extended into Thursday, as
U.S. and European officials said they remained committed to finding a
way out of the impasse.
Iran indicated it saw an end to impending Western sanctions on Iran´s
oil trade as necessary for the talks to advance. The White House
stressed on Wednesday that this wasn´t an option.
"We will continue to press forward with our allies and partners with
the unprecedented sanctions regime as we, on a separate track, work
with our P5+1 partners to pursue an effort to resolve this conflict
diplomatically," spokesman Jay Carney said. The P5+1, the group in
negotiations with Iran, comprises the five permanent members of the
United Nations Security Council plus Germany.
Iran is under pressure from economic sanctions and an impending
European Union oil embargo and U.S. ban on transactions through
Iran´s central bank, which handles oil purchases.
The U.S. has said Tehran must first take significant steps toward
addressing concerns that it seeks nuclear weapons before Washington
dials back sanctions.
In its proposal to Iran here on Wednesday, the P5+1 offered to ease
sanctions that bar the exports of U.S.-made spare aircraft parts to
Iran´s national carriers and aid for Iran´s development of
nonmilitary applications for nuclear power, people briefed on the
In return, the international bloc formally proposed to Iran that it
freeze production of nuclear fuel enriched to 20% purity and ship its
stockpile of the fuel to a third country, Western diplomats said. The
proposal package also seeks to close an Iranian enrichment facility
built inside a fortified military bunker near the holy city of Qom.
Iran´s official IRNA news agency said late Wednesday that for the
talks to bear results the package needed to be significantly revised.
IRNA said the West was expecting more compromise from Iran and
offering few incentives.
Iran´s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on
Iran´s nuclear policy, is likely to compromise only if tough economic
sanctions on Iran are removed, analysts said.
"Khamenei is fully aware that if the sanctions continue the economy
will collapse and he wants relief. He might not be willing to
compromise to the level the West expects," said Hossein Bastani, an
Iran expert and former government official now based in Paris.
Iran offered its own package on Wednesday, including what it said was
a comprehensive road map of how it believed the negotiations should
progress, IRNA reported. The proposal included details on what
compromises Iran would make and what it expected its international
counterparts to offer.
"In Iran´s package, the give and take is balanced," IRNA said.
Senior U.S. officials said late Wednesday that they viewed the talks
as at an early stage and that they weren´t deterred. They also said
that, unlike in previous negotiations, the P5+1 was engaged in
serious discussions with Tehran.
"I would have expected nothing more than Iran to say that this
[offer] was unbalanced," said a senior U.S. official involved in the
talks. "This is a negotiation."
Iran, too, seemed to praise the process, saying both sides had
clearly presented their positions and calling parts of the
The talks sought to build on a tentative agreement reached Monday
between Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic
Energy Agency, that would allow international inspectors access to
sites, scientists and documents the West believes are related to an
Iranian nuclear-weapons program.
EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton led the P5+1 side in the
talks in Baghdad´s Green Zone. She presented the group´s package to
Iran´s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, the personal
representative of Mr. Khamenei.
The P5+1´s proposed moves to limit Iran´s production and stockpile of
nuclear fuel were seen as necessary to reduce Iran´s ability to
quickly amass the fissile material needed to develop an atomic weapon—
though Tehran says its nuclear program is for strictly peaceful
"There´s a new offer on the table which addresses our concerns, not
the least the 20% enriched uranium," said Michael Mann, spokesman for
Mrs. Ashton. "We´re hoping the Iranians will respond in a positive
Iranian officials have said in recent days that the international
community must recognize Tehran´s right to produce nuclear fuel if
the diplomacy is to move forward.
They have also demanded that the U.S. and EU ease economic sanctions
that have compelled nations to cut back on buying Iranian oil, the
country´s primary source of revenue.
The Obama administration has suggested it would be willing to accept
Iran´s production of nuclear fuel sometime in the future, but only if
Tehran agrees to rigorous international inspections and clarifies its
alleged nuclear-weapons work.
—Carol E. Lee in Washington contributed to this article. (Copyright ©
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 05/24/12)
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