by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) April 08, 2014
Iran and world powers held a new round of nuclear talks Tuesday hoping to move to the next level and start drafting a historic and highly ambitious final deal next month.
Threatening to drive a wedge between the powers, however, is the crisis over Ukraine, which has led to the biggest standoff between Russia and the West since the Cold War.
Iran and the five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany want to transform a temporary accord struck in November into a permanent agreement before it lapses on July 20.
Doing so is a tall order, however, requiring both sides to tackle thorny issues that will severely test their willingness and ability to give ground.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday that he has formed a group of legal experts to help in the "complicated, difficult and slow work" of drafting a deal.
A spokesman for the powers' chief negotiator, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said this round, expected to last two days, was to "explore our respective positions on each topic".
A senior US official involved in the talks said Friday she was "absolutely convinced" a deal could be reached and that both sides were "looking toward beginning drafting in May".
Under the November deal, which took effect on January 20, Iran froze certain nuclear activities for six months in exchange for minor relief from sanctions hurting its economy.
But it has not permanently dismantled any of its nuclear equipment and could any moment stop the freeze, although this would invite new sanctions.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told US lawmakers Monday that the theoretical period needed for Iran to produce a weapon's worth of bomb material -- if it chose to do so -- was "about two months".
In order to greatly extend this "break-out" time, the six powers want the final deal to see Iran reduce permanently, or at least long-term, the scope of its programme.
The deal may involve Iran slashing the number of centrifuges -- machines "enriching" nuclear material -- changing the design of a new reactor at Arak and giving UN inspectors more oversight.
Iran in return wants all sanctions lifted.
- Hardliners -
If Iran gives away too much this risks losing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani -- who since taking office last year has sought to improve ties with the West -- the support of the supreme leader.
But leaving too much -- or indeed any -- of Iran's nuclear infrastructure intact would be hard to sell with sceptical US lawmakers and Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power.
So far, the six powers have shown a united front. But Moscow's annexation of Crimea last month has sent relations between Russia and the West into a tailspin.
Following the latest unrest in the east this weekend, with pro-Russian activists storming government buildings, the White House on Monday warned Moscow against efforts to "destabilise Ukraine".
The Kremlin swatted the accusations aside, warning the pro-Western government in Kiev against any use of force and saying Tuesday there was a "risk of unleashing civil war".
Russia's chief negotiator, Sergei Ryabkov, fired a warning shot last month, saying Moscow might "take the path of counter-measures" on Iran if pushed too far.
On Tuesday however Ryabkov sounded a more conciliatory note, telling ITAR-TASS it would "not be wise" to turn Iran into a "bargaining chip".
Russia was not involved in the Iran talks "to please the Americans or Iranians" but because it "meets the national interest" to find a solution, he said.
Moscow and Iran are said to be negotiating an oil-for-goods barter deal that would undermine Washington's sanctions efforts, a strategy the US credits with getting Iran to talks in the first place.
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Learn about missile defense at SpaceWar.com
All about missiles at SpaceWar.com
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|