News / Middle East

Iran Nuclear Talks May Include Sanctions Relief

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev (R) meets with Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili in Almaty, Kazakhstan, February. 25, 2013.
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev (R) meets with Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili in Almaty, Kazakhstan, February. 25, 2013.
Officials from six world powers may offer Iran some sanctions relief during talks Tuesday in Kazakhstan if Tehran agrees to address international concerns about its controversial nuclear program.

Reports of the sanctions relief come from European and American sources before the meeting in Almaty between Iranian nuclear officials and the so-called P5+1 group of nations - the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

For years, the international community has been trying to persuade Iran to curb its uranium enrichment activities. The United States and the European Union believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes.

Enriched uranium

Low-enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear power plants, but highly-enriched uranium is an integral part of a nuclear bomb.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a private research firm, said that since the last round of talks in June of last year, Iran has continued to make gradual but steady progress with its uranium enrichment program.

“It has installed additional centrifuges in its Fordow nuclear complex, the underground fortified complex,” Kimball said. “That facility is now at capacity with nearly 3,000 centrifuges, though only about less than one-third of those are actually spinning.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency said recently that Iran has begun to install a new generation of centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment plant and the agency said Tehran continues to enrich uranium at 20 percent.

Experts say weapons-grade uranium has to be enriched to a 90 percent concentrated level to be used as the explosive material in a nuclear bomb.

Many experts, including Joel Rubin with the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, say Iran is still a ways off in its presumed quest to produce nuclear weapons.

“The concern, however, is that Iran is putting in the building blocks to have the capability to make a dash for the bomb,” Rubin said, “that it is installing advanced centrifuges and perfecting the enrichment process to the point where if it were to decide, then it would have a shorter window for breakout. But we are not at that point yet.”

International sanctions

In an effort to pressure Iran to end its uranium enrichment program, over the past few years, the United Nations Security Council has passed resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran.  In addition, several other nations, including the United States, have imposed their own measures.

The Associated Press and Reuters report that sources in the EU and the U.S. say there could be an easing of sanctions if Iran is ready to bargain.

"The window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open forever. But it is open today. It is open now," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a news conference in London. "There is still time but there is only time if Iran makes the decision to come to the table and negotiate in good faith."

Analyst Rubin and others said sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard.

“What these sanctions have done is beyond the penalties that they have inflicted, they have also rallied international unity on the question of Iran’s nuclear program,” said Rubin. “China and Russia are very much invested in these sanctions as well as the European Union, in addition to the United States.”

Experts said the question is what steps will Iran be willing to take - such as curtailing uranium enrichment - in exchange for easing sanctions?

Bruce Laingen was the senior American diplomat in Tehran when he and 51 other Americans were taken hostage by Iranians in 1979 and held for 444 days. He said the Almaty meeting is important simply because it is taking place.

“Diplomacy is always the way to go," he said. "I’m a diplomat. I’ve lived with this issue for a long time. It’s an available tool which is always there - diplomacy is talk, talking between the principals involved.”

“But nothing will come of it until the principals involved get some degree of encouragement from the leadership in both countries," he added "You can’t have a diplomatic process unless there is some degree of moderation, compromise, on the part of both sides.”

Many analysts don’t expect much progress to be achieved at the Almaty talks since Iran is scheduled to have presidential elections in June. Experts said that makes it hard for Iranian officials to make any concessions at these talks.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Malek Towghi, Ph.D. from: Michigan, USA
February 25, 2013 5:24 PM
In order to reassure Tehran -- and the Iranian people -- that the talks are not aimed at one-sided benefits for the West as usual, immediate and tangible sanction relief for Iran must be a part of the package.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More