News / Middle East

Iran Asks Quick Follow-up on New Sanctions Offer

From left: Ma Zaoxu, Chinese assistant minister of foreign affairs, Hans-Dieter Lucas, political director of Germany's Foreign Ministry, and Sergey Ryabkov, Russia deputy foreign minister, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Feb. 27, 2013.
From left: Ma Zaoxu, Chinese assistant minister of foreign affairs, Hans-Dieter Lucas, political director of Germany's Foreign Ministry, and Sergey Ryabkov, Russia deputy foreign minister, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Feb. 27, 2013.
Iran and world powers have agreed to more talks about the Iranian nuclear program, after negotiators for those nations offered new concessions and Iran responded by asking for a quick follow-up meeting.

The significant developments came Wednesday, at the end of a two-day meeting of Iranian and world power representatives in Kazakhstan, where they engaged in their first high-level talks since last June.

Speaking in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, Iran's top negotiator Saeed Jalili welcomed the new proposals by the six nations as "more realistic" than previous ones and called them a "turning point" in negotiations with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The talks have been aimed at addressing Western concerns that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons under the cover of a peaceful energy program - a charge Tehran denies.

Greater concessions

Diplomats in Almaty said the world powers proposed lifting sanctions on Iranian gold and other precious metals in return for Iran suspending the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity at its Fordo underground facility.

Iran's Nuclear Program

2012

January: IAEA confirms Iran is refining uranium to 20% fissile purity
February: UN inspectors end talks in Tehran without inspecting disputed military site at Parchin
April: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vows Iran will not surrender its nuclear rights
May: UN inspectors report finding traces of significantly upgraded uranium at an Iranian site
July: EU begins total ban on Iranian oil imports; US expands sanctions
September: IAEA demands access to Parchin; Iran calls EU sanctions "irresponsible"
December: IAEA says it made progress in talks with Iran; US imposes more sanctions.

2013
January: Iran says it will speed up nuclear fuel work
February: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejects direct nuclear talks with the U.S.; Iran, world powers meet, agree to more talks.
May: IAEA says Iran has expanded nuclear activity.
September: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will not seek weapons of mass destruction.  Iran and world powers agree to resume nuclear talks.
October: Iran set to begin talks with five permanent members of U.N. Security Council and Germany
Previously, the six nations had limited their offers to ending restrictions on spare parts for Iranian civilian airliners. They also had insisted on a full shutdown of the Fordo complex.

Now, it appears that world powers are ready to accept some lower-grade enrichment at Fordo, provided that higher-grade enrichment to 20-percent purity is stopped and cannot be quickly restarted.

A senior U.S. official in Almaty said there is no deadline on the world powers' offer, but also warned time is running short for Iran to accept it.

Faster pace

As they wrapped up the Almaty talks, the two sides agreed to hold an expert-level meeting on March 18 in Istanbul, Turkey, followed by another meeting of top negotiators starting April 5.

VOA correspondent Bijan Farhoodi in Almaty said sources told him that the request for a speedy resumption of negotiations came from Iran.

"Something started rolling in Almaty that was not happening before. In the past, the space between the talks was much longer," Farhoodi said.

"The [two sides] never agreed to meet on a date so close to that of the previous conference. Now [the Iranians] are asking for less than a month [until] the next conference, so this is a way of signaling that Iran wants to get these sanctions lifted and accommodate the [six powers]."

Under pressure

The U.N. Security Council has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Iran to try to pressure it into curbing enrichment activities that could be used to make a nuclear bomb. Several nations, including the United States, also have imposed unilateral penalties on Iranian entities.

Iran's economy has weakened under the sanctions, with key oil revenues falling, unemployment rising and inflation soaring. Diplomats at the Almaty talks said the world powers did not propose lifting penalties against the Iranian oil and financial sectors.

Farhoodi said Iranian negotiators repeated their previous offer to cooperate with the major powers in nuclear and non-nuclear matters in return for an end to sanctions. He said Iran hopes to somehow merge its proposal with that of the six nations in the next round of talks.

Western hopes

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represented the six nations, said she hopes the Iranian side will look at their new proposal "positively."

"The offer addresses international concerns [about] the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, but is also responsive to Iranian ideas," she said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Almaty talks were "useful." Speaking on a visit to Paris, he said if Iran engages in serious negotiations, it could lead to a long-term resolution of the nuclear dispute.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the U.S.-based Arms Control Association, said he was surprised by Iran's eagerness to keep talking.

"The Iranians have their own political process they have to navigate," Kimball said. "They have June [presidential] elections. So, it was surprising to some of us that they did agree to another round of talks because there are strong political reasons why they simply wouldn't want to reach a deal in the near term."

Iran has long resisted international pressure to curb uranium enrichment. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said Tehran recently began installing a new generation of centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment plant, a move U.S. officials have deemed "provocative."

Military threat

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday the international community should intensify existing Iranian sanctions and warn Tehran that continued enrichment will lead to "military sanctions." He did not elaborate.

Israel has long warned that it could strike Iranian nuclear sites to prevent the development of a bomb that it says would threaten its existence due to Iranian leaders' calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. Iran sees Israel's widely-assumed nuclear arsenal as a major threat to peace in the region.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Tom Marine from: Long Island, New York
February 27, 2013 9:02 PM
The US are chumps! This "talk" junk has been going on for a lot of years and the Iranians are laughing at us. The talk will stop the day they announce they have both a MIRV-compatible megaton warheads ready and the delivery vehicles aimed and loaded.

But until then, the folks in suits at photo ops at important meetings get kudos and Peace Prizes. After the big flash and the big booms, the suits will live well on pensions and write books on how disingenuous those rascally Iranians were.

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
February 27, 2013 10:53 AM
What concrete action was achieved? ZERO ! Kind of the results with the NKorean talks, also have achieved ZERO !

by: david lulasa from: tambua,gimarakwa,hamisi,v
February 26, 2013 6:27 AM
i wonder if russia would just keep quiet in this era of the START if it saw a new american ally pop up during the dialogue and threatened to make nuclear weapons like north korea and iran always do like mice?
lulasa...the president
In Response

by: BAKHTIAR
February 27, 2013 5:35 AM
SUCH ARRANGEMENTS DO NOT DEPEND ON THE BEHAVIOR OR ATTITUDE OF SINGLE STATES ESPECIALLY IN THE GULF STATES IT THINGS IT GOES FURTHER THANT THIS . THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM WHICH IS DOMINATED BY POWERFUL STATES THEY DECIDED BEHIND THE SCENE HOW TO DEAL WITH WHAT IS CALL ROUGE STATES

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs