West pins hopes on more talks in Iran dispute

By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (BestGrowthStock) – An agreement to hold more talks was probably the meatiest result major powers could have hoped for in their first meeting with Iran in over a year, which confirmed deep divisions in the long-running nuclear dispute.

But while the outcome of two days of discussions in Geneva — a plan to meet again early next year — may allow the West to nurture hopes of possible progress toward resolving the row there was little sign of any rapprochement in substance.

Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili made clear the Islamic state would not back down over its uranium enrichment work, activity which the West suspects is aimed at developing bombs but Tehran says is for peaceful electricity generation.

The six big powers involved in efforts to find a diplomatic solution — the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Britain and China — want Iran to curb such activity to reassure the world about its intentions.

But analysts say Iran’s hardline leaders, who use the nuclear program to rally nationalist support and distract from domestic problems, are unlikely ever to agree to this demand.

“We will not talk about Iran’s nuclear rights and Iran will never accept pressure,” Jalili told Iranian state television.

Western officials say tougher international sanctions imposed on Iran since June are hurting the oil-dependent economy, and they hope this will persuade Tehran to enter serious negotiations about its nuclear program.

Iran dismisses the impact of such penalties, saying trade and other sanctions imposed since the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the U.S.-backed shah have made the country stronger.

Such rhetoric is to be expected from Tehran, but experts and diplomats are far from confident that external pressure alone will be enough to force Tehran to climb down, with some suggesting the big powers may also have to compromise.

NUCLEAR RIGHTS

“Ultimately it depends on Iran’s calculations and if they want a bomb or not,” said a diplomat from a Western country which is not involved in the negotiations with Iran. “The current situation in fact suits them if they want a bomb.”

Echoing the views of some nuclear experts, he said he believed the only possible way to break the deadlock was for the powers to accept some continued Iranian enrichment work.

Under this scenario, Iran would need to let the U.N. nuclear watchdog carry out more intrusive, wider-ranging inspections to make sure it is not secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Proliferation expert Shannon Kile, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said he believed the world powers and Iran needed “to break out of a zero-sum game… to a situation where both sides can come away claiming a win.”

Both prospects for this look dim for now, as the demand that Iran suspend all enrichment activity is enshrined in repeated U.N. Security Council resolutions and Tehran has repeatedly refused tougher U.N. inspections of its atomic work.

Uranium enrichment is a “fundamental right as far as Iranians are concerned … while you have the current Iranian regime that is not going to change,” said David Hartwell, IHS Jane’s North Africa and Middle East analyst.

Sadegh Kharazi, a former Iranian diplomat, urged both sides to calm their rhetoric to give talks a chance.

“Success is possible, if space is provided to develop a deal suitable to both sides, while providing security guarantees and recognizing Iran’s legitimate role and interests in its own region,” he wrote this week in the Financial Times.

“But the threat of fresh sanctions, unveiled with the shaking of a fist, will damage the slender chances for peace.”

(Editing by Alistair Lyon)

West pins hopes on more talks in Iran dispute