Iran nuclear negotiator, in India, blasts US double standards

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Amid preparations for a new round of nuclear talks, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator used a speech at an Indian think tank Wednesday to rail against US-led negotiations with the Taliban and what he decried as American double standards on terrorism and a “selective approach to the nuclear rights” of nations.

Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s national security council, spoke to an invitation-only crowd at a New Delhi think tank Wednesday while on a three day official visit to India before traveling to Afghanistan. But the immediate focus of Jalili's India visit, at the invitation of his counterpart Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, seemed to have more to do with shared Indian and Iranian concerns about prospective US-led negotiations with the Taliban that could give Pakistan greater sway in Afghanistan, rather than the nuclear file, Indian analysts said.

“The good news is that Iran is as uncomfortable as India on the back-room developments with regard to Afghanistan as the United States-led international community seems hell bent on 'good' Taliban taking over the land-locked country in the post-2014 scenario of withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan,” Indian analyst Rajeev Sharma wrote.

Jalili, in his speech to the Observer Research  Foundation, “completely avoided specifics and focused on themes – despite very specific questions being asked, he focused on American double standards and US exceptionalism,” an Indian foreign policy analyst who attended the talk told the Back Channel by email Thursday. Continue reading

Nuclear negotiators discuss new talks with Iran

Negotiators for the P5+1 and Iran have held talks on arranging a new meeting soon.

Helga Schmid, the deputy to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, spoke by phone with her Iranian counterpart Dr. Ali Bagheri on December 31st, a European diplomat said.

“The two of them are working on the next meeting to happen soon,” a spokesperson for Ashton’s office said Wednesday.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, speaking Wednesday in India, also said he welcomed new nuclear talks starting “very soon.”

“We have concluded several rounds of negotiations with the Group. The latest was six months ago in Russia…We hope to soon conduct negotiations with P5+1,” Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran's national security council, told reporters after a speech in New Delhi Wednesday, Outlook India reported Wednesday.

“The time and venue has not been finalized but we hope it will be done soon,” Jalili continued.

Details on when and where the next round of talks will be held have still not been released, but a meeting is expected this month.

Jalili is on a three-day official visit to India. While there, he is due to meet with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, the Times of India reported.

Jalili is then scheduled to travel to Afghanistan, Reuters said.

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Iran diplomat: Iran looking for endgame in nuclear talks

An Iranian diplomat tasked with liaising with foreign policy experts told reporters Friday he’s not very optimistic about upcoming nuclear talks, but did not rule out the prospect of a compromise on Iran’s 20% enrichment activities.

“Personally speaking, I am not optimistic,” Mostafa Dolatyar, the head of the Iranian foreign ministry think tank IPIS, told reporters at the Iranian embassy in New Delhi on Friday, Reuters reported.

“They”—the six powers that comprise the P5+1, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia—“have made certain connections with purely technical issues and something purely political,” Dolatyar continued. “As far as this is the mentality … from [the] 5+1…definitely there is no end for this game.”

Deputy nuclear negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 held a phone conversation Wednesday to initiate logistical planning for a new round of nuclear negotiations, Al-Monitor reported (December 12). Preparations for a new meeting have gotten underway as the six powers have been debating how to update a proposal  on curbing Iran’s higher 20% enrichment work, first presented to Iran at a meeting in Baghdad last May.

“The package has the same bone structure, but with some slightly different tattoos,” a senior US official was cited by the Washington Post Friday.

“Our assessment is that it is possible that they are ready to make a deal,” the official said. “Certainly, the pressure is on.”

Al-Monitor first reported in October that Iran’s leadership had tapped Dolatyar to serve as a central point of contact for approaches from outside-government foreign NGOs and nonproliferation experts, in an effort to reduce mixed messages ahead of anticipated resumed nuclear negotiations.

“Mostafa Dolatyar, a career Iranian diplomat who heads the Iranian foreign ministry think tank, the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), was tapped by Iran’s leadership to coordinate contacts with American outside-government policy experts, including those with former senior US officials involved unofficially in relaying ideas for shaping a possible nuclear compromise,” Al-Monitor wrote October 31.

The appointment is the result of a desire “on the Iranian side for a more structured approach to dealing with America,” Mark Fitzpatrick, an Iran nuclear expert at the Institute for International and Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, told Al-Monitor in October.

Ahead of a new meeting–the date is still unclear, international negotiators have been debating how to update a proposal that would curb Iran’s higher 20% enrichment work on a short time table, given the size of Iran’s accumulated stockpile of fissile material and the concern that the Iranian leadership may become more politically distracted and uncompromising as it heads into its presidential elections in June.

Dolatyar, speaking to reporters Friday, offered a rationale for Iran’s 20% enrichment activities, saying it needed the fuel for medical purposes, but did not rule out the possibility of a compromise. Continue reading

US Navy fires on “rapidly approaching” boat near Dubai

A US Navy security team fired on a small motor boat off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates Monday, after the small vessel “disregarded warnings and rapidly approached”  the US Navy ship, the Rappahonnock, the Pentagon said Monday.

“The U.S. crew repeatedly attempted to warn the vessel’s operators to turn away from their deliberate approach,” the US Navy/Centrall Command said in a press statement sent to Pentagon reporters Monday. “When those efforts failed to deter the approaching vessel, the security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun.”

The incident, near Jebel Ali, UAE,  is under investigation. The nationality of those aboard the motor boat is not yet known or being released, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy Central Command told Al Monitor. “At this time I don’t have that information, the incident is still under investigation,” US Navy spokesman Ltn. Greg Raelson told Al Monitor by email.

ABC News reported that the small motor boat was not from Iran. “I can’t emphasize enough that this has nothing to do with Iran,” an unnamed Navy official told ABC News.

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