Iran flexible on phased lifting of sanctions

Delegates from Iran and the six global powers have arrived in Kazakhstan for nuclear talks in Almaty, which could either become a turning point in the ties between Tehran and the West or end up — as they did last summer in Moscow — in a disappointing blame game.

Iran’s nuclear dialogue with the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany (P5+1) has been stuck on the contents of a possible deal. The western component of the global powers, led by the U.S. has been seeking an end to the 20-per-cent enrichment undertaken by Iran.

Iran has also been asked to export its stockpile of enriched uranium and close Fordow — the country’s second enriched uranium facility, constructed deep inside a mountain, to make it safe from external destruction. Sufficient material is now available in the public domain that points to the West’s attempt to drive an unusually hard bargain with Iran. In return for its three listed demands, which in essence are an attempt to seize the crown jewels of its nuclear programme, Iran has been offered aviation spare parts for its aged planes that the late Shah, deposed during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, had bought from the U.S.

Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former nuclear negotiator from Iran, compared the deal that was proposed during an earlier round of talks in Baghdad, as an offer of “peanuts for diamonds”. Iran has signalled its willingness to sign up to a quid pro quo arrangement, provided it includes the phased lifting of international and unilateral sanctions that West has serially imposed against Tehran. However, Tehran has defiantly refused to halt all enrichment in tune with the western demands.

Exhorted by Russia, the western powers have apparently improved upon their previous package. AFP quoted a western envoy as saying in Almaty, Iran will be presented with a proposal that would include “significant new elements”. “We will take an offer with us which we believe to be a serious and substantial offer,” said the official.

Tempered with caution, Russia also imparted a positive spin on the upcoming talks. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Reuters that the six global powers have “carried out meaningful preparatory work for the round in Almaty”.

Mr. Mousavian, the former negotiator, points out that Iran and its interlocutors can strike a deal provided the West accepts that Tehran, under international monitoring, can enrich uranium to a five-per-cent level. This is required to cover Iran’s domestic fuel needs for nuclear power generation in the future.

On Saturday, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) announced its intention to build 16 nuclear power plants in different parts of the country.

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