Iran on Monday opened a technical route to build confidence with the global powers after negotiations in Geneva stalled over the possible military applications of the Arak heavy water reactor being built by Tehran.
Unfazed by the lack of agreement, which at one time seemed to be well within grasp, Iran has decided to address western apprehensions head-on. On Monday, the Iranians welcomed Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Tehran. Within hours, they had signed an agreement with the agency, which would, for the first time, allow its inspectors to visit Arak. The surprising show of transparency by Iran is meant to allay fears that were most publicly raised by France in Geneva, that the heavy water reactor in Arak could yield plutonium that can be used by Tehran to manufacture atomic bombs. In their spirited riposte to counter suspicions about their military intentions, the Iranians also agreed to open up for inspections the Gachin uranium mine, to which the IAEA had also sought, but had been denied access, in the past.
“I have received permission for inspectors to visit the Arak heavy water plant and the Gachin mine, which has been requested by the agency, and Iran has voluntarily announced its readiness for this,” declared Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation. He made the announcement in the presence of Mr. Amano during a press conference after signing a joint statement with the IAEA.
The Iranians say that Arak heavy water reactor will use natural uranium to produce radio medicines to treat cancer patients. It is slated to replace the Tehran Research Reactor, which currently makes these medicines, using uranium as fuel that has been enriched to a 20 per cent level.
The statement anchors steps that would be undertaken in the future on the remaining nuclear issues that the IAEA wishes to resolve, in order to confirm that the Iranian nuclear programme does not have a military orientation. “The joint statement that was signed today represents a road map that specifies bilateral steps in relation to resolving outstanding issues,” said Mr. Salehi.
The Iran Student News Agency quoted Mr. Amano as saying that Monday’s agreement would lead to a number of practical steps that would be implemented over the next three months. He said that the agreement was an important step but cautioned that “still a lot of work to be done”. The IAEA has sought access to sites, documents and officials, as part of its investigation.
As Iran mounted a fresh effort ahead of the next round of talks on November 20, the United States began imparting its own spin to explain what went wrong in Geneva, to its friends and allies. Arriving in Abu Dhabi, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry went to considerable lengths to explain that it was not fissures among its allies, but Iran’s refusal to sign on a proposed text that led to the failure of the talks.
“The French signed off on it, we signed off on it,” said Mr. Kerry.
“There was unity but Iran couldn’t take it,” he observed.
Mr. Kerry’s remarks follow perceptions, based on interviews given by the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, that Paris had played spoiler in preventing a deal.
The U.S. top diplomat also appealed to Israel not to jump the gun and dump the current diplomatic outreach towards Iran. “The time to oppose it [the fledgling accord] is when you see what it is, not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible,” counselled Mr. Kerry.
His remarks follow Israeli Prime Minister’s all-out blitz to extinguish the possibility of a deal between Iran and the global powers. In an address in Jerusalem to the annual General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America, Mr. Netanyahu appealed to Jews worldwide to hit the road in order to disparage the deal. It is a “bad and dangerous deal” that threatens Israel’s survival. He added that on “on matters of Jewish survival, I will not be silenced”.