After two days of talks in Geneva, Iran appears ready to scale back activity of potential use in making nuclear bombs, suggesting it is willing to compromise for a deal to win relief from harsh economic sanctions, diplomats said on Wednesday.
Iran said it presented "logical" proposals in talks with six world powers, aimed at achieving a breakthrough in a decade-old standoff over its disputed nuclear program that has heightened the risk of a new Middle East war. Details of the Iranian proposal - unveiled as a PowerPoint presentation - were not immediately available. Western diplomats have cautioned in the past that Tehran appeared loath to offer sufficient nuclear concessions to secure a deal.
But, in a clear sign of hope, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was agreed to hold the next round of negotiations in three weeks in Geneva, and Iran's chief negotiator praised this week's discussions as "fruitful". A source at the European Union says the new round of talks offered "a real chance" for progress.
The talks in Geneva served to test how sincere President Rohani's new style of diplomacy is -- and how long it can be expected to continue. Ayatollah Khamenei has reportedly given his new president a period of just three months in which to convince the West to ease at least some of the strict economic sanctions currently imposed on the country. Rohani also has his own reasons for acting quickly: He promised the suffering Iranian people during his election campaign that he would get the sanctions lifted. But if Tehran wants to achieve this, it needs to make significant concessions to the West.
Since the last round of talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan in April 2013, the West has put its political wish list on the table: Production of 20 percent enriched uranium is to be immediately suspended, and inventories of uranium enriched up to 5 percent is to be thinned out or removed from the country. In addition, the West has asked that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) be given full access to all Iranian nuclear facilities, even to the top-secret, subterranean Fordo enrichment facility south of Tehran.
At the last meeting a year and a half ago Iran rejected this kind of concession, so long as the West was offering merely to hold back on further sanctions. "Peanuts" was how an Iranian representative described what had been offered during an appearance on CNN.
Even if a new era does materialize, the chief question remains whether both parties will be able to win over stakeholders at home to compromises. President Rohani has hardliners to deal with, for whom any concession over Iran's nuclear program is tantamount to treason. Meanwhile President Obama will be able unable to loosen sanctions against Iran without bipartisan support from a traditionally pro-Israel Congress.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
World Affairs Analyst
Photo-Credit: AFP- Iranian President Hassan Rohani-Photo