Reading list: Red lines, not deadlines, on Iran

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  • “The U.S. is ‘not setting deadlines’ for Iran and still considers negotiations as ‘by far the best approach’ to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. (Indira Lakshmanan, Bloomberg)
  • “Israel and the United States are in discussion on setting a ‘red line’ for Iran’s nuclear program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.” (Reuters)
  • “We call on the government in Iran to come back to the table with substantial offers, which is very necessary and very crucial at this time.” (German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Reuters)
  • IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, ahead of IAEA board of governors meeting Monday, calls for immediate access to Iran site, says he’s frustrated. (IAEA; Reuters)
  • “What statesmen do when faced with bad options is create new ones. The third choice in this case is to negotiate a deal that lets Iran enrich uranium for civilian use….that applies rigorous safeguards…that gradually relaxes sanctions and brings this wayward country into the community of more-or-less civilized nations.”  (Bill Keller, New York Times)
  • “Immediately after the US presidential election, …Ehud Barak is certain to resume his antics and carry on where he has left off, and the countdown will start all over again.” (Ben Caspit, Maariv/Al-Monitor)

IAEA announces new Iran talks, former Iran nuclear negotiator proposes “zero 20% stockpile” plan

The top UN nuclear inspector Yukiya Amano will hold new talks with Iranian officials in Vienna later this week, he announced Monday. The purpose of the meeting will be to try to finalize a work plan partially agreed to at a meeting in Tehran last month, he said.

“I invite Iran to sign and implement the Structured Approach document as soon as possible and to provide early access to the Parchin site,” Amano told the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors Monday, after announcing plans for a meeting with Iranian officials June 8.

The IAEA-Iran meeting comes ten days ahead of new P5+1/Iran talks scheduled to be held in Moscow June 18-19th.

Western diplomats are hoping to secure a deal at the Moscow meeting under which Iran would stop its 20% uranium enrichment and send out its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. The actions would be part of a proposed first-step confidence building gesture that international negotiators hope could put time on the clock for negotiations to resolve broader concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

But former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian, speaking in Washington Monday, cast doubt that Iran would be willing to curb its 20% enrichment activities without getting upfront recognition of its right to enrich to 3.5% for energy purposes.

“For Iran, it’s very important to see the end state,” Mousavian  told the Arms Control Association in Washington Monday. “The Western powers have a piecemeal approach. Iran wants to see the endgame.”

For the upcoming P5+1/Iran talks in “Moscow, an agreement on zero stockpile of 20 % enriched uranium would be the best achievement,” Mousavian proposed.

Under such a plan, he explained, the P5+1 and Iran would set up a joint committee to determine how much 20% enriched uranium Iran needs for medical purposes, and the rest of its 20% stockpile would be exported or converted to 3.5%.

He also proposed that the IAEA define the maximum amount of transparency it would like from Iran. “If Iran accepts, to sign the additional protocol and give the IAEA access beyond that demanded in the additional protocol, then the [western powers] should be ready” to defer new European and American sanctions set to go into effect next month targeting transactions with Iran’s Central Bank and oil exports.

(Photo: Hossein Mousavian, then head of the Iranian delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), listens to a journalist’s question prior to a closed-door meeting of the IAEA 35-nation Board of Governors in Vienna June 16, 2004. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer.)

International negotiators to offer detailed confidence-building proposal to Iran

Amman, Jordan – The United States and its negotiating partners have agreed on a detailed confidence-building proposal to present to Iran at nuclear negotiations due to get underway in Baghdad Wednesday.

The proposed package is an updated version of a 2009 uranium fuel swap plan that takes into account Iran’s progress in enriching uranium, American and European diplomats said.

While the details of the proposed package have not been made public, Western officials told Al Monitor that the package does not include sanctions relief at this stage.

Instead, the United States and its P5+1 partners will offer fuel for Tehran’s Research Reactor (TRR) plus safety upgrades to the plant, which is of 1960s vintage. Also potentially on the table: new research reactors that use lower level 3.5 percent enriched uranium, safety upgrades for Iran’s one functioning nuclear power plant at Bushehr and spare parts for its accident-plagued fleet of civilian airliners.

In return, Iran must stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent and halt activities at Fordow, an enrichment facility built into a mountain near Qom. It is not clear whether Iran would also have to send out its stockpile of more than 100 kg of the fuel.

*The E3+3 will be putting forward a detailed confidence building proposal tomorrow, which will include a series of confidence building measures,” a western official told journalists in Amman Tuesday.

“Expectations are guarded,” a second western official told Al Monitor Tuesday. “If we talk substantively on elements of a deal and agree to meet again in three weeks, Baghdad will have been a success.”

“Just hope the Iranians are not deluding themselves they are going to get sanctions relief now—that’s not going to happen at this stage,” he added.

European and American diplomats have indicated that if the Baghdad talks prove constructive, they would like to meet far more regularly with Iran in a single location– possibly Geneva–to try to hammer out the complex technical issues for the confidence building measure.

Separately, the International Atomic Energy Agency chief said Tuesday that he and Iran were close to finalizing agreement on a work plan.

“During my stay in Tehran, there was an important development on the structured approach document on which we have been working since January,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said Tuesday after returning from talks in Iran with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

“The decision was made by me and Mr. Jalili to reach agreement on the structured approach,” Amano said.

American diplomats said they welcomed the signs of progress, but noted the IAEA’s negotiations with Iran serve a separate purpose from that of the P5+1.

The IAEA and P5+1 tracks with Iran “are two separate processes,” a senior US administration official said Tuesday.

“The IAEA is about accounting for the past and for naming what is,” the official explained. “It is not about what is the nature of Iran’s nuclear program and what will Iran’s nuclear program look like going forward, and will it be peaceful.”

“Better to under-promise and over-deliver!” a European diplomat said. “The big picture is to get a process going where the big players and Iran meet regularly, ideally every month, and work step-by-step towards a common goal.”

–Barbara Slavin reported from Washington; Laura Rozen from Amman.

 

IAEA chief to make unusual visit to Iran

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano will make a rare visit to Iran on Sunday, the UN nuclear watchdog agency announced Friday. It will be Amano’s first visit to Iran, and the first by an IAEA chief since Mohamed ElBaradei visited the country in 2009.

“Amano will travel to Tehran this Sunday, 20 May, to discuss issues of mutual interest with high Iranian officials,” the agency said in a brief press announcement. Amano would also meet the top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili on monday, the agency said.

The visit comes ahead of a second round of Iran nuclear talks due to be held in Baghdad May 23. It also follows an Iran-IAEA meeting last week that both sides described as constructive.

Diplomatic sources said they were only somewhat hopeful ahead of the next round of talks.

“There is reason to be cautiously hopeful, a step down from the usual ‘cautiously optimistic,'” a western diplomat told me Friday. “Talks are progressing and we should have a chance to take another important step, perhaps even reach the end of the beginning of the process.”

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