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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora