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Iran agrees to 'roadmap' for UN nuclear inspections
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Nov 11, 2013

US seeks to pacify Israel public over Iran deal
Jerusalem (AFP) Nov 11, 2013 - US Ambassador Dan Shapiro on Monday sought to quell Israeli fears over an emerging deal with Iran, vowing that Washington would never let Tehran acquire a nuclear weapon.

"On this crucial issue the US and Israel share an identical agenda," Shapiro told delegates attending the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Jerusalem (GA).

US President Barack "Obama has made it crystal clear that he will not permit Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, period, and is prepared to use all elements of our national power to ensure that we are successful," he said.

His remarks came as the US and Israel were locked in a war of words over negotiations between world powers and Iran in a bid to limit its nuclear programme, which is widely believed to be a front for developing a military capability.

Diplomats have said they are closing in on an interim agreement that would freeze or curb some of Iran's nuclear activities for as long as six months in exchange for an easing of the tight sanctions on the Islamic republic, after failing to secure a deal at weekend crunch talks in Geneva.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has furiously denounced the emerging agreement as "dangerous", reaching out to world leaders and to the American public to get his point across.

"Iran gives practically nothing and it gets a hell of a lot. That's not a good deal," Netanyahu told CBS on Sunday.

"It's a bad and dangerous deal that deals with the thing that affects our survival," he told the GA the same day.

"When it comes to the question of Jewish survival and the survival of the Jewish state, I will not be silenced."

On Monday, he made the same point at a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.

"The common goal for ourselves, the United States, Europe, China and Russia is to stop Iran developing a military nuclear capability," his office quoted him as saying.

"I think this is the time to improve the agreement. Iran is in economic distress and it is possible to get a better deal," he said. "Before easing sanctions we need to get a good deal, not a bad deal."

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon joined in when he also addressed the GA in Jerusalem on Monday.

"We from the very beginning said, and we (continue to) say, that the military nuclear regime in Iran, by one way or another, should be stopped, otherwise (it's) going to be a nightmare, not just for the state of Israel," he said in English.

"Israel is ready to defend itself, by itself," he added.

Kerry shares 'deep concerns'

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who took part in the Geneva talks, challenged Netanyahu's stand, saying Washington has the interests of ally Israel at heart and that he shares Netanyahu's "deep concerns".

"But I believe the prime minister needs to recognise that no agreement has been reached about the endgame here that's the subject of the negotiations," he said.

A delegation of US officials headed by chief negotiator Wendy Sherman visited Israel on Sunday to brief officials on the Geneva talks.

Maariv newspaper reported that a senior US official told Israeli reporters that the proposed sanctions relief would be "modest" and could be "revoked".

The official said that intensifying sanctions would "cause the Iranians to leave the negotiating table and accelerate their nuclear programme," according to Maariv.

Israel's Economy Minister Naftali Bennett is to travel to the United States on Tuesday, with part of his trip focusing on meetings with senators and members of the US Congress over the issue.

Iran on Monday agreed with the UN nuclear watchdog on a "roadmap for cooperation" to inspect its disputed programme, as the United States questioned Tehran's self-declared right to uranium enrichment.

Diplomats insist world powers are close to reaching a landmark interim deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief despite failing to do so in Geneva over the weekend.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry, during a visit to Abu Dhabi partly aimed at reassuring Gulf allies fearful of a breakthrough with Tehran, said no nation has an "existing right to enrich" and that Iran had balked at the Geneva talks.

"The P5+1 was unified on Saturday when we presented our proposal to the Iranians... But Iran couldn't take it," said Kerry, who took part in the high-level talks.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate whose election this year raised hopes of progress in the decade-long talks, has said Tehran will not abandon its nuclear rights, calling uranium enrichment on Iranian soil a "red line".

But in an interview with the BBC, Kerry said "'right' is the wrong word.

"There is a standard by which they might be able to do something, providing they meet certain standards in order to do it. And that's what you negotiate about," he said.

The so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany -- and Iran will reconvene again in Geneva on November 20 to try to iron out differences.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meanwhile reached an accord with Iran on a "roadmap for cooperation" during a visit to Tehran by the head of the UN watchdog, Yukiya Amano.

Amano hailed the deal as "an important step" but said "much more must be done," in remarks carried by the ISNA news agency.

The IAEA chief's visit was aimed at resolving technical issues linked to the body's role in monitoring Iran's nuclear activities.

Broader questions of how to ensure Iran's nuclear programme is not being used to mask a drive for atomic weapons are being discussed in the negotiations with the P5+1.

Inspections accord 'encouraging'

Analysts and diplomats in Vienna said the framework accord -- while preliminary and somewhat vague -- was a first step in satisfying the IAEA's long-standing demands for greater oversight.

The agreement requires Iran to provide information within three months on all new research reactors and identify sites designated for the construction of power plants as well as for uranium enrichment.

"It is rather encouraging," a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "Maybe the wording is not perfect but it goes in the right direction."

The accord does not specifically address the IAEA's long-stalled probe into alleged efforts by Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has always insisted its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

Amano said inspection of the Parchin military complex, where Iran is alleged to have conducted research on nuclear weapons, would be addressed in "subsequent steps" under the framework.

Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday that as a gesture of goodwill, IAEA inspectors would be allowed to visit a heavy water reactor under construction in Arak -- seen as a key stumbling block in the Geneva talks -- as well as the Gachin uranium mine in the south.

At least a year from completion, the Arak reactor is a major source of concern for Western powers, who fear the plutonium it will produce as a by-product could provide Iran with a second route to an atomic bomb.

Iran insists it wants to produce isotopes solely for medical and agricultural purposes at the Arak plant, which is already under limited IAEA surveillance.

Monday's agreement foresees the IAEA having direct access within three months to the Arak plant.

"The IAEA does not know right now how much heavy water Iran is actually making and they want to get a good idea about whether and how soon it is going to operate," said Mark Hibbs, a Berlin-based analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The marathon talks in Geneva ended inconclusively on Sunday after France raised concerns over the Arak reactor.

"We are not far from an agreement with the Iranians but we are not there yet," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday.

Fabius fired back at allegations that Paris had scuppered the talks, saying: "France is neither isolated nor a country that follows the herd. It is independent and works for peace."

His comments were echoed by a senior Western diplomat in Brussels, who said the talks needed more time.


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