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


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.

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

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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

February 27, 2013 5:35 AM

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs