Iran nuclear talks to collapse unless Tehran changes, Europeans say

BRUSSELS – Western negotiators trying to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal said on Friday that Iran’s new tougher government is proposin...


BRUSSELS – Western negotiators trying to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal said on Friday that Iran’s new tougher government is proposing unacceptable changes to the existing draft deal, even though it is is making rapid progress in its nuclear program.

Unless Tehran quickly changes its position, warned British, French and German diplomats after five days of meetings in Vienna, the negotiations are unlikely to succeed. Talks have been suspended for consultations with governments and could resume next week.

“More than five months ago Iran halted negotiations, and since then Iran has stepped up its nuclear program,” the three men said in a joint statement. “This week, he reviewed the diplomatic progress made. Iran is breaking with nearly all the tough compromises made over months of difficult negotiations and demanding substantial changes to the text “which undermine the project, which was between 70 and 80 percent complete, they said.

Iran says it wants to revert to the 2015 agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

“It is not clear,” they added, “how these new gaps can be filled in a realistic timeframe on the basis of Iranian plans.” While European governments “remain fully engaged in a diplomatic channel,” they said. , “hurry up”.

It was the first round of negotiations after a five-month hiatus as a new Iranian government took office and reflected on its stance on the nuclear deal, which former President Donald J. Trump quit in May 2018. Mr. Trump then got worse on economic sanctions. in an attempt to bring Iran back to the negotiating table in a weaker position or even bring down the government itself.

The pressure campaign failed. The Biden administration wants to revive the deal and extend its term to 25 years instead of 15. But the Iranian government not only wants all sanctions lifted, it also wants to preserve some of the major investments it has made since then. in advanced centrifuge construction and enrichment. uranium far beyond what the agreement allowed.

Enrichment means increasing the proportion of fuel which is uranium-235, the most powerful form of the element, which in nature makes up less than 1 percent of all uranium. For nuclear power plants, it is generally enriched to less than 5% in uranium 235; for an atomic bomb, more than 90 percent is needed.

Iran has started enriching uranium to 60 percent, a level that has no civilian use, experts said. It only leaves Tehran about a month before it can create bomb-grade nuclear fuel.

Iran denies that it intends to build a nuclear weapon, but it also denies the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, access to important nuclear facilities of which it had as part of the 2015 pact. With the limited surveillance facilities still at its disposal, the agency determined that Iran has installed advanced centrifuges at its deeply buried Fordow complex and is enriching banned uranium there. by the 2015 agreement.

Initially, after Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the deal, Iran stuck to its restrictions, hoping the other signatories would find a workaround. But after a year, Tehran lost patience and began to violate the boundaries of the agreement. It now has more than 2,300 kilograms of enriched uranium, 11 times what the agreement allowed. Iran is also in the process of turning gaseous uranium into metal, a milestone in the making of a bomb.

Unless Iran has a sudden change of position, the United States and Israel will soon be faced with more serious questions about what to do to bring Iran under control and keep its promise that Tehran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. Europe, too, will feel compelled to consider new, much tougher sanctions.

But despite the Americans and the Israelis sabotage attempts and even more economic sanctions, Iran is moving closer to having the knowledge to become a nuclear threshold state – an intentionally ambiguous position of not having a nuclear weapon but being able to build one in a relatively short timeframe, barely a year.

Iranian negotiators have said they want to reach an agreement in Vienna, but that the United States, having pulled out, must act first. They demand the removal of all economic sanctions, not just those on its nuclear program but others penalizing it for its role in regional conflicts, including attacks on neighbors. Only then, they say, will Iran cut back its nuclear program.

The Western position has been “conformity for conformity”, with carefully negotiated sequencing. Iran says it also wants guarantees that Washington will never abandon the deal again, a politically and legally impossible promise.

Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani told Iranian media that “it is true that the European parties were not very happy with some of our proposals, but these proposals were based on common principles between the two parts”.

This week, EU negotiators said, would indicate whether Iran seriously considered reverting to the 2015 deal. In essence, that would mean Tehran accepts the carefully crafted plan with the previous, more moderate Iranian government that balances concessions. on both sides. But EU negotiators said Iranian proposals, especially on nuclear issues, simply accepted concessions from Washington while wiping out those from their side, and would eliminate up to 90% of what negotiators had already agreed to before June. .

Even the June draft text left the most difficult issues unresolved, which negotiators estimate at 20 to 30 percent of what would be a full deal.

If negotiators now accepted the current Iranian texts as a basis for proceeding, the talks would take far too long to complete, while Iran would continue to get richer. The Iranians believe they have increased their influence by going well beyond the boundaries of the deal, but Western officials say they miscalculated.

American patience is clearly running out of steam. State Secretary Antony J. Blinken said on Thursday after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov that Iran’s actions did not bode well, but “it is not too late so that Iran can backtrack ”.

He declared at the end of this meeting in Stockholm that “Russia shares our fundamental point of view on this subject”. Despite strong differences over Ukraine and other issues, the two men “noted the importance of continued coordination on issues of the bilateral relationship and on points where interests are aligned, including when it’s about blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, ”the State Department said. .

Mr. Blinken minimized a call Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to abandon negotiations in the face of what he called Iranian blackmail.

“In the very near future, the next day or so, we will be able to judge whether Iran really intends now to engage in good faith”, Mr. Blinken said, adding: “I have to tell you that the recent movements, the recent rhetoric, do not give us much reason to be optimistic.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Iran nuclear talks to collapse unless Tehran changes, Europeans say
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