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Kerry raises doubts over Iran nuclear deal – Americas – Al Jazeera English

Kerry raises doubts over Iran nuclear deal – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

Kerry will brief the full US Senate on Wednesday on the status of talks with Iran [Reuters]
US Secretary of State John Kerry has raised doubts over whether Iran is prepared to conclude a final deal with Western powers on dismantling its disputed nuclear programme, but has urged US lawmakers not to impose new sanctions on the country.

“I came away from our preliminary negotiations with serious questions about whether or not they’re ready and willing to make some of the choices that have to be made,” Kerry told the US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee on Tuesday.

“Has Iran changed its nuclear calculus? I honestly don’t think we can say for sure yet. And we certainly don’t take words at face value,” Kerry said.

The top US diplomat, who helped hammer out an interim six-month deal with the country to freeze parts of its nuclear programme, said “believe me this is not about trust”.

“Given the history we are all rightly sceptical about whether people are ready to make the hard choices to live up to this.”

But he stressed Iran’s seriousness would be put to the test over the six months set out in the interim deal hammered out last month in Geneva.

Iran has denied accusations it is seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon under the guise of its civilian atomic energy programme.

Sanctions debated

Kerry said “we now have the best chance we’ve ever had to test this proposition without losing anything” and he urged lawmakers to hold off imposing new sanctions on Tehran to give negotiators time to work.

“I’m not saying never […] If this doesn’t work we’re coming back and asking you for more. I’m just saying not right now.”

Two US senators – Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Mark Kirk – are finalising a new Iran sanctions measure that they hope to introduce before Congress goes on its year-end recess.

Republican Senator John McCain, who said he hoped senators could “get an agreement in the next day or two”, dismissed the idea that introducing new sanctions legislation now would hurt the interim agreement.

“It’s supposed to be a six-month deal,” he said of the legislation, which would aim to punish Iran if it reneged on its part of the deal that it reached last month with members of the so-called P5+1 group of Western powers.

Fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the new sanctions would not take effect until after the six months, and would “basically tie to the UN resolutions”.

Kerry said the world faced a crossroads, “a hinge point in history”: one path could lead to a resolution of concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, the other could lead to conflict.

He warned that if the US went ahead with new sanctions, it risked angering Washington’s P5+1 partners and could also give Iran an excuse to flout the deal.

 

Iran Seizes Saudi Fishing Vessels, Arrests 9 Sailors | Zero Hedge

Iran Seizes Saudi Fishing Vessels, Arrests 9 Sailors | Zero Hedge.

It didn’t take long to escalate Iran-Saudi relations, or the lack thereof, following this weekend’s nuclear (non) deal. Moments ago Iran’s Fars news agency reported that Iran’s coast guards have seized two Saudi fishing vessels after they entered the Islamic Republic’s territorial waters, a provincial official announced on Wednesday. “Yesterday, the coast guards deployed in the country’s Southern waters came to spot two vessels in Iran’s protected waters in the South using electronic and optic tools and equipment,” Commander of Bushehr province Coast Guards Qalandar Lashkari said. He said that the Iranian coast guards rushed to the scene and were faced with two vessels which were illegally fishing in the Iranian waters under the Saudi flag.

It was not immediately clear if, as in the case of China’s air defense zone, the US promptly decided to drive a battleship in Iran’s territorial waters, just because it can. However, the Saudi response will certainly be just as acute.

Noting that 9 sailors were arrested thereafter, Lashkari said further investigation showed that the 9 people are nationals of different countries.

 

Also earlier this year, forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)’s second naval zone seized another Saudi vessel and its four-strong crew after it illegally entered Iranian waters. The vessel was later expelled.

 

In a relevant event on January 3, Saudi Arabia detained 21 Iranian nationals who were aboard two boats near al-Harqus Island 42 miles (78 km) off the Saudi coast, the Saudi border guard said.

We may need before an Israeli boat is arrested, and mysteriously blows up, before the middle-east returns to its wild type irrational, militant state.

 

A Confused World Reacts To The Iran Nuclear Deal | Zero Hedge

A Confused World Reacts To The Iran Nuclear Deal | Zero Hedge.

The following statement was made by British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, on September 30, 1938 in front of #10 Downing Street, London, after his arrival home from the notorious Munich Conference of 1938.

We, the German Fuhrer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe.

 

We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.

 

We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe.

 

My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is “peace for our time.” Go home and get a nice quiet sleep

75 years later, last night appeasement came to Iran:

(L to R) British foreign secretary, German foreign minister, EU foreign policy chief, Iran’s foreign minister, Chinese foreign minister, US secretary of state and Russian and French foreign ministers in Geneva on November 24, 2013.

It remains to be seen if appeasing Iran will lead to yet another anschluss or worse, but for now one thing is certain: nobody really knows what to make of last night’s historic nuclear “deal” with Iran. Because when even the two main participants are unable to agree on what was decided…

Now, THAT’s “win-win” diplomacy —> pic.twitter.com/5zbI5Db6Kh

— Nima Shirazi (@WideAsleepNima) November 24, 2013

… how is everyone else expected to fare any better?

In any case, here is a sampling of the immediate reactions, most of which were as expected. First, Israel:

  • Israel Foreign Minister Lieberman: Iran’s greatest diplomatic victory since the Islamic revolution

Which is a good thing right? Wrong:

What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it’s a historic mistake,” Netanyahu said. “It’s not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.”

Not surprisingly, Israel hates any deal that diffuses tension in the region and lowers the probability of war. Iran, on the other hand was giddy:

Hassan Rouhani hails nuclear deal as turning point for Iran

 

A smiling Hassan Rouhani stepped on to the spiral staircase of the presidential palace to announce to an anxious nation the first nuclear deal reached with world powers in a decade – a major achievement which capped his first 100 days in office.

Departing from the austere conference hall press events of his predecessors, and opting instead for a White House Rose Garden-style appearance, he declared that the Islamic Republic had won global powers’ recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium.

 

Billing it as a turning point for Iran – both internationally and at home – the centrist president elected on the hope of ending Iran’s isolation and fixing a collapsing economy made the most of the little sanctions relief offered by the Geneva agreement. Putting his own spin on the deal – and along the way directly contradicting American officials’ assertions – Mr Rouhani said the sanctions regime “had been broken” by the agreement, “whether others like it or not”. With the passage of time, he predicted, the cracks “will widen.”

 

In another sign of his media savvy as president, Mr Rouhani produced relatives and children of four scientists killed since 2010, part of a covert war against the nuclear programme. Each family was presented with a roll of honour.

 

Mr Rouhani reserved some of his final words for the supreme leader, declaring his appreciation for the Ayatollah’s guidance and stressing that negotiators had worked within these guidelines.

A delighted Rouhani promptly took to twitter:

“The important part of the agreement is the recognition of #Iran‘s enrichment that has fortunately been described in a four-page document.”

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

“The important part of the agreement is the recognition of #Iran‘s enrichment that has fortunately been described in a four-page document.”

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

“Congratulations to all Iranians for the failure of sanctions and acknowledgment of the right to enrich” #IranTalks pic.twitter.com/LXI566DQbM

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

In memory of Martyrs of Nuclear energy killed by west-backed terrorists 4leading #Iran 2achieving nuclear technology. pic.twitter.com/DYcdCtTPan

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

Pres. #Rouhani: “With these negotiations the world concluded that no threats can work on Iran.”
#PressConference

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

Dr. #Rouhani: “The result of these negotiations is that the P5+1 i.e. the world powers recognize Iran’s nuclear rights”
#PressConference

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

Also not surprising is that unlike last time when the deal was scuttled in the last minute due to a block by France, this time Obama made a few phone calls to his socialist peer:

  • French President Francois Hollande “welcomes the conclusion of the Geneva negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program” in e-mailed statement by his office today.
    “The accord that was reached respects the demands imposed by France on the issues of uranium storage and enrichment, suspension of new facilities, and international control”
  • Agreement “constitutes a step toward the ending of Iran’s nuclear military program, and therefore toward the normalization of our relations with Iran”
  • “France will continue to work to reach a final agreement on this issue. The intermediate accord reached last night represents an  important step in the right direction”: Hollande

The other negotiating parties hailed the deal. From Iran’s PressTV:

China, Germany and Russia have hailed the deal between Iran and the Sextet over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.

 

After more than four days of intense negotiations, Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany sealed an interim deal in Geneva on Sunday morning to pave the way for the full resolution of the West’s decade-old dispute with Iran over its nuclear energy program.

 

According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the deal allows Iran to continue its activities at Arak, Fordow and Natanz facilities. The agreement also stipulates that no additional sanctions will be imposed on Tehran because of its nuclear energy program.

 

China on Sunday welcomed the deal, saying the agreement with Tehran would “help safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East”.

 

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also hailed the agreement and said the nuclear deal marks “a turning point.”

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also praised the deal and stressed it would benefit all sides. “Nobody lost, everyone ends up winning,” he said.

Kerry’s own spin may not have actually mentioned “peace in our time” just yet, but it was vigorous regardless:

  • “We believe very strongly that because the Iranian nuclear program is actually set backwards and is actually locked into place in critical places, that that is better for Israel than if you were just continuing to go down the road and they rush towards a nuclear weapon”
  • “The basic architecture of the sanctions is staying in place. There is very little relief. We are convinced over the next few months, we will really be able to put to the test what Iran’s intentions are,” Kerry told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.
  • “When you’re dealing with nuclear weapons, it’s not an issue of trust,” Kerry said. “Verification is the key.”

And the punchline:

  • Kerry: If Iran’s nuclear program is really only for peaceful purposes, then “prove it”

Just how does one prove they are not doing something they are not doing? Anyway, all of this is merely more theatrics. As the AP reports, the deal was prepared secretly months in advance following secret talks between the US and Iran:

The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.

 

The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West.

 

But the secrecy of the talks may also explain some of the tensions between the U.S. and France, which earlier this month balked at a proposed deal, and with Israel, which is furious about the agreement and has angrily denounced the diplomatic outreach to Tehran.

 

The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.

 

The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran’s reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran, said three senior administration officials. All spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss by name the highly sensitive diplomatic effort.

 

The AP was tipped to the first U.S.-Iranian meeting in March shortly after it occurred, but the White House and State Department disputed elements of the account and the AP could not confirm the meeting. The AP learned of further indications of secret diplomacy in the fall and pressed the White House and other officials further. As the Geneva talks appeared to be reaching their conclusion, senior administration officials confirmed to the AP the details of the extensive outreach.

Politics aside, Bloomberg reports on the actual elements of the deal:

Iran will get as much as $7 billion in relief from economic sanctions over six months under the first-step agreement reached today in Geneva, the Obama administration said.

 

In return for Iran limiting its nuclear program, the interim agreement provides for the release of $4.2 billion in frozen oil assets and will let Iran continue exporting oil at current levels, rather than forcing continued reductions by buyers, as would be required under current law, according to a White House statement.

 

The accord also will “suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue,” the administration said.

 

Israeli officials and some U.S. lawmakers have said sanctions should be tightened, not eased, to keep pressure on Iran. Rejecting those pleas, the U.S. and the five other countries negotiating with Iran have agreed to “not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems,” according to the White House statement.

 

The no-new-sanctions pledge will be tested when the U.S. Senate returns for legislative business on Dec. 9 after a Thanksgiving break. A group of 14 senators from both parties issued a statement last week pledging to “pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible.”

 

Critics of an interim accord in Congress and in Israel have predicted Iran would reap $20 billion or more in relief. U.S. officials have rejected such estimates and have said the accord won’t lift the most punishing sanctions — those on oil sales and banking. The Obama administration estimated in its statement that Iran will continue to lose $4 billion a month in crude it otherwise would have exported.

Finally, while the cynics may say this was merely yet another attempt to redirect attention from the Obamacare debacle especially since Iran’s nuclear power plants have been controlled by US-Israel made computer virus Stuxnet for years, we will one-up their cynicism and this was all merely an advertising photo op for Nike:

Close up: pic.twitter.com/pGKuPJPdYq

— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) November 24, 2013

 

Crude Oil Spikes Most In 7 Weeks As Iran Nuclear Deal Hopes Fade | Zero Hedge

Crude Oil Spikes Most In 7 Weeks As Iran Nuclear Deal Hopes Fade | Zero Hedge.

With the WTI-Brent spread at 8-month wides, RINs having collapsed, and US investors buoyed by gas prices at the pump near recent lows, the surge in crude oil prices today – by their most since October 2nd – may take some of the ‘tax-cut’ punch from the party (remember gas prices are still 11.4% above recent seasonal norms). The 2% jump in WTI (and 1.85% rise in Brent over the last 2 days) may have only pushed it back to one-week highs but breaks a trend of lower prices that many have hoped would persist. Desk chatter is that much of this move is a re-up of middle-east premia as Iran’s nuclear negotiator says no deal today.

 

 

Bear in mind that despite the euphoria over lower gas prices, they are still 11.4% above seasonal norms of the last 5 years…

 

Israel Working With Saudi Arabia On Iran “Contingency” Attack | Zero Hedge

Israel Working With Saudi Arabia On Iran “Contingency” Attack | Zero Hedge.

When last week’s Iran nuclear talks were blocked by France, it provided a useful glimpse into just who it was that would benefit politically from a continuation of the regional confrontation. But while the French sabotage was an amusing distraction, it revealed a curious shift in middle-east alliances, namely old “enemies” Israel and Saudi Arabia, both feeling shunned by Big Brother, suddenly becoming the best of buddies. It was only a matter of time before this novel alliance moved beyond just paper and tested how far it could go in real life. Said test may come far sooner than expected: according to the Sunday Times, Israel’s Mossad and Saudi Arabia are planning an attack against Iran if negotiations and talks don’t come to an agreement, and that Saudia Arabia will permit Israel to use their air space for an attack on Iran including full technical support.

According to the Sunday Times, the Saudis would assist an Israeli attack by cooperating with the use of drones, rescue helicopters, and tanker planes. “Once the Geneva agreement is signed, the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” said the paper citing an unnamed official.

The flipside is that by pursuing an outright attack of Iran, the new Israel-Saudi axis would implicitly go against the wishes of not only Russia but, if John Kerry’s detente posture is to be believed, that of the US itself.

Israel’s PM Natanyahu naturally knows this, so instead he is merely lobbying for even more political support starting in the one country, France, which has aligned itself with the new Middle East axis, even as Israel’s old allies appear to have foresaken it. Jerusalem Post reports:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in an interview with French daily Le Figaro on Saturday that there is a “meeting of the minds” between Israel and the “leading states in the Arab world” on the Iran issue – “one of the few cases in memory, if not the first case in modern times.”

 

“We all think that Iran should not be allowed to have the capacities to make nuclear weapons,” he said. “We all think that a tougher stance should be taken by the international community. We all believe that if Iran were to have nuclear weapons, this could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, making the Middle East a nuclear tinderbox.”

 

Saying that an Iran with nuclear arms would be the most dangerous development for the world since the mid-20th century, and stressing that the “stakes are amazing,” Netanyahu urged the world’s leaders to pay attention “when Israel and the Arabs see eye-to-eye.”

 

“We live here,” he said. “We know something about this region. We know a great deal about Iran and its plans. It’s worthwhile to pay attention to what we say.”

 

Netanyahu made the comments as French President Francois Hollande was set to arrive in Israel for talks on Iran on Sunday.

In the meantime, Iran which suddenly finds itself the creme of the international diplomatic circle and is in full compliance with what the US demands, is explaining – via RT – just why a joint attack on its by supposedly former enemies will not happen:

Iranian political analyst Seyed Mohammad Marandi told RT that an imminent joint attack on Iran was unlikely given the serious ramifications it could provoke for the region.

 

“It is highly unlikely that the Saudis and Israelis would want to attack Iran because at the end of the day both countries would be losers, they would be seen as aggressors and obviously the Iranians would retaliate,” Marandi told RT.

 

Although he consented that the Saudis and Israelis have been moving closer together lately,neither of them stood to gain from attacking Iran.

 

“It would create an economic catastrophe for the world and only the Saudis and the Israelis would be to blame,” said Marandi.

Then again, considering a GDP-boosting economic catastrophe (recall the main reason the US wanted war with Syria is to boost the defense spending budget which lately has been in freefall) is precisely what the Fed and the Congressional muppetmasters want, we wouldn’t sleep too soundly if we were in the Ayatollah’s shoes. Especially now that thanks to Reuters the entire world, and certainly the NSA, know just where all his rainy day funds are located. Because while it is true that neither Israel nor Saudi would gain from attacking Iran, the US most certainly would. And now it has not one but two proxy countries in the region doing its bidding.

 

Iran Nuclear Programme Deal Fails Due To French Block: New Saudi-French Alliance Emerging? | Zero Hedge

Iran Nuclear Programme Deal Fails Due To French Block: New Saudi-French Alliance Emerging? | Zero Hedge.

While most pragmatists knew well in advance that optimism over an Iran nuclear programme deal emerging out of Geneva was very much displaced, few anticipated what the actual reason for the failure would be. Indeed, most had expected that the staunchest opponent to the deal, Israel PM Netanyahu who moments ago appeared on Face the Nation and made his case (saying Iran would have given up “almost nothing”) would have used his influence over the US as a key member of the 5+1 group of nations (US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Iran) to block any Iranian detente with the US, even though none other than John Kerry has been urging for the Iranian deal for weeks. So when news hit that it was France who had scuttled a deal with a last minute block, many were surprised.

FT reports:

“There was a possibility to reach an agreement with the majority of 5+1 but there was a need to have the consent of all and as you have heard . . . one of the delegations had some problems,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a Facebook post referring to the six nations involved in the talks – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Iran. Three days of intense negotiations in Geneva, which went into early Sunday morning, failed to produce an interim agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme despite earlier optimistic predictions.

France appeared to be concerned that the proposal, which involved Tehran halting key parts of its nuclear programme in return for modest relief from tough international sanctions, did not apply the brakes hard enough on the country’s agenda.

Iran’s negotiating team was blessed last week with the strong support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and ultimate decision maker, who urged hardliners not to weaken the diplomatic team during nuclear talks and said they were “children of the revolution”.

But the top leader’s official Twitter account on Sunday reposted his comments from a speech earlier this year in which he had condemned France’s alleged enmity toward Iran. “The officials of French government in recent years have shown explicit hostility toward the Iranian nation. This is a thoughtless and imprudent move,” the tweet said.

This means that once again the traditional narrative of Iran as an intransigent, obstinate negotiator falls apart, even if there had been an ulterior motive: the removal of Western sanctions against the improverished nation. So it will be up to the west to come up with yet another provocation that makes Iran seem like an irrational actor on the international arena.

However, a bigger questions arises: why did France break away from the US-led negotiating axis, just to side not only with Israel but with Saudi Arabia.

  Many ordinary Iranians, including the reform-minded public and those educated in the west, expressed outrage at France and accused it of trying to appease Israel and Saudi Arabia, which have been against any nuclear deal that would give Iran the right to enrich uranium.

“French cars occupy Tehran’s streets but instead France stabs Iran in the back,” said Mina, a 32-year-old businesswoman.

France’s alliance with Saudi Arabia against Iran is nothing new and we had seen it during the Iran-Iraq war [1980-88] when the Saudis paid France to give fighter bombers and missiles to Saddam [Hussein] to kill us,” said Narges, a university student of politics.

“We should boycott French fries and baguettes in a symbolic move,” said Mahdi, an electric engineer.

Even Iran’s hardliners who are in principle against any deal attacked France. Fars news agency, close to the elite Revolutionary Guards, ran a headline: “Tough negotiations in Geneva and a French gun-wielding frog.”

Which should at least partially answer the nagging question about who it is that Saudi Arabia has picked to fill the diplomatic void in the aftermath of the deterioration in relations between the oil-rich nation and the US.

Then again, a Saudi Arabia alligned with a France, which by implication is now operating against US interests should result in some truly comic events in the international diplomacy arena very soon. We can’t wait to find out just how Hollande’s socialist government proceeds to entertain the world with its foreign policy foibles.

Finally, for those who missed it, here is Netanyahu earlier today saying “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

CBS News Video

Iran hints for more nuclear concessions – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Iran hints for more nuclear concessions – Middle East – Al Jazeera English. (source)

Diplomats offer to scale back uranium enrichment; next round of talks with world powers planned for early November.

Details have remained largely secret, which the Iranian foreign minister said showed “seriousness” [Reuters]
The latest round of talks between Iran and world powers have concluded in Geneva, with Iran indicating a willingness to scale back uranium enrichment, as well as allowing for snap inspections of its nuclear sites as part of a new proposal to end a decade-long standoff with world powers.

Full details of Iran’s proposals, presented during two days of negotiations in Geneva with six world powers, have not been made public.

Normally, the less negotiators leak news, the more it shows the seriousness of the negotiations and the possibility of reaching an agreement.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister

But, in a clear sign of hope, the two sides agreed to hold follow-up negotiations on November 7 and 8 in Geneva, a Western diplomat told Reuters news agency as the current two-day talks drew to a close.

“We hope that this is a beginning of a new phase in our relations,” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told reporters on Wednesday.

After a six-month hiatus, Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany began negotiations in earnest on Tuesday to end a long impasse.

Both sides sought to dampen expectations of any rapid deal at the meeting, the first since President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June pledging to scrap the politics of confrontation to ease Iran’s international isolation.

After the first day of talks in Geneva, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi suggested Tehran was prepared to address long-standing calls for the UN nuclear watchdog to have wider and more intrusive inspection powers.

He also told the official IRNA news agency that measures related to its uranium enrichment were part of the Iranian proposal, but hinted the Islamic Republic was not inclined to make its concessions quickly.

Diplomats said other proposals Iranian envoys had made regarding eventual “confidence-building” steps included halting 20 percent enrichment and possibly converting at least some of existing 20 percent stockpiles to uranium oxide suitable for processing into reactor fuel.

“Neither of these issues are within the first step [of the Iranian proposal] but form part of our last steps,” Araqchi said without elaborating, in comments reported on Wednesday.

‘We need to keep talking’

Iran did not intend to renounce all enrichment “under any circumstances”, the Russian state news agency RIA quoted an unidentified Iranian delegation source as saying.

Western officials have repeatedly said that Iran must suspend enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, their main worry, before sanctions are eased.

“Are we there yet? No, but we need to keep talking,” a Western diplomat said as talks resumed on Wednesday.

But Iran, diplomats said, has made much more concrete proposals than in the past, to the point that Tehran’s negotiators were concerned about details being aired in public before they had had a chance to sell them back in Tehran.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, praised the talks as “substantive and forward-looking” in a statement she read on Wednesday evening. The White House also spoke positively about the meeting, saying Iran showed “a level of seriousness and substance that we have not seen before.”

Zarif said in a post on Facebook that secrecy was working in the negotiators’ favour.

“Normally, the less negotiators leak news, the more it shows the seriousness of the negotiations and the possibility of reaching an agreement,” he said.

 

Iran Sets Framework For Nuclear Program Negotiations: Demands Lifting Of All Sanctions | Zero Hedge

Iran Sets Framework For Nuclear Program Negotiations: Demands Lifting Of All Sanctions | Zero Hedge.

 

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