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

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora