News Analysis: Iranian nuclear talks hobble ahead, racing with time

2013-03-12 23:15:49 GMT2013-03-13 07:15:49(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Xinhua writer Wang Tengfei

VIENNA, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Iran's nuclear row, which has lasted for years between the West and Tehran, seems to enter a crucial phase, as Tehran continues to achieve rapid advance on its disputed atomic program in recent months.

Despite pressure and unprecedented tough sanctions imposed by the West since last summer, Iran's nuclear activities are reportedly getting close to the "red line".

Iran's archrival Israel has threatened to conduct military action against Tehran's "defiant" nuclear activities, if diplomatic efforts fail to steer Tehran away from its suspected "nuclear weapon program," raising concerns of triggering military conflict in the Middle East.

However, the latest round of so called P5+1 talks, namely the United States, China, France, Russia, Britain and Germany, in Almaty, see new signs of a diplomatic breakthrough, which all sides concerned have been waiting for.

Both Iranian officials and western diplomats said the talks are "positive", and would be continued in Istanbul on March 18 to discuss the offer, and return to Almaty for political discussions on April 5-6.

Regarding the positive step made in the latest round of P5+1 talks, the U.S. mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) pressured Iran to fully cooperate with the UN agency to clarify "the possible military dimension of its nuclear program", instead of urging the member states to report the issue to the UN Security Council to impose further sanctions and pressure on Iran, leaving more room for diplomatic breakthrough over this issue.

U.S. President Barack Obama last Sunday said there is still room for negotiation and quoted a Chinese saying attributed to military strategist Sun Tzu, according to Haaretz, "Build a golden bridge for your opponent to retreat upon."

During his planned visit to Israel next week for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussion on Iran's nuclear issue undoubtedly will be high on the agenda.

There's no doubt that all sides concerned is seeking to ease the longtime stand off over Iran's nuclear issue, Tehran needs the relief of the western sanctions, meanwhile, the West demands Iran to suspend its disputed nuclear activities, and all the deal should be clinched before Israel loses its patient.

UNFINALIZED NUCLEAR INSPECTION FRAMEWORK

The talks between the UN nuclear agency and Tehran is supposed to be an crucial effort so as to promote the diplomacy breakthrough.

To clarify the outstanding issues in Iran's nuclear program, the IAEA is demanding access to some sites and confidential document, which is suspected by the West and the agency to conduct activities relevant to the development of nuclear weapons.

As some of the agency's demands are already beyond the safeguard agreement under the NPT, both sides need a framework document to conduct the nuclear inspection.

Tehran insisted that Iran could not meet the agency's demand unless the framework document was finalized, and complained that the agency conduct its investigation by the baseless allegation from western intelligent agency.

After rounds of talks, Iran and the IAEA failed to reach an agreement on the document.

IAEA head Yukiya Amano hinted in a press conference during the boarding meeting that Iran is using the framework document to block the agency's access to Parchin military site, where the agency alleged Iran might did explosive experiment relevant to nuclear bomber research.

In response to the IAEA Director-General's doubt, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh, Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, said, as some sensitive military sectors are involved in the IAEA's demanding, criteria is needed to conduct the inspection, or Iran's national security might be harmed, accusing some western states of politicizing the talks.

Analysts said that the gap between Tehran and the UN nuclear watch dog is the competence of the inspection, that Iran can hardly satisfy IAEA's demand.

LEVERAGES FOR BARGAIN, WINING TIME FOR DIPLOMATIC BREAKTHROUGH

The West sees the latest development of Tehran's atomic program as defiant steps to further violate its obligation, but analysts said Iran might be still winning time and space for a diplomatic breakthrough as well as using these progress as leverages to gain a better position in the talks with the world six powers, asking the West to dismantle the sanction, which hurts the country's economy by blocking its oil export channel, Iran's lifeblood.

Iran's crude oil exports in March may plunge by a quarter from a month earlier to the lowest since tight sanctions came into effect in 2012, industry sources said, squeezing income for Tehran as sanctions cast doubt over its future revenues.

On the other side, the western policy makers have embarked on a crippling and engaging policy toward Iran, which is aimed to curb Iran's nuclear activities by using composite measure.

In the latest talks in Almaty, the relief of the sanctions is also used as leverage by the West for a bargain, and a new proposal was put on the table, which demand Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment, especially the 20 percent uranium production, in return for the relief of the sanctions.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Thursday the next round of talks between the world powers and the Islamic republic over the latter's nuclear program will be a test for the West's sincerity, semi-official Fars news agency reported.

In Almaty, the Western countries did not do something important, rather, they admitted a small part of the Iranian nation's rights, said Khamenei without elaboration.

Both sides now are holding stakes to make the bargain, making the talks tougher.

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