World Powers Renew Push on Iran’s Nuclear Program : worldleaks
Senior officials from six world powers met Wednesday in Geneva in a new bid to reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program contempt opposition from Israel, some members of the United States Congress and Iranian hard-liners.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on policy matters in Iran, promised an audience of thousands of members of the hard-line Basij paramilitary organization that the negotiators would not compromise on Iran’s main nuclear policies.
“I do not interfere in the details of the talks,” Mr. Khamenei said, adding “that we will not step back one iota from our rights.”
Iran’s leaders have always underlined a set of “red lines,” vowing not to stop enrichment, which is what five United Nations Security Council resolutions demand. The Iranians also refuse to temporarily halt enrichment.
The Geneva talks are a continuation of an attempt two weeks ago to clinch a deal with Iran that would put a brake on its nuclear program in return for limited relief of economic sanctions. American officials say those terms are aimed only as a first step to a comprehensive agreement that would remove the risk of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.
Those talks broke up with France reportedly pushing for tougher curbs on a heavy water reactor Iran is building at Arak and Iran asserting on its right to enrich uranium.
The new round of negotiations, tentatively scheduled to run until Friday, will bring out whether the progress both sides said they made in those negotiations provided sufficient momentum to achieve the breakthrough that eluded them earlier this month.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief who is hosting the negotiations, began the talks on Wednesday by meeting senior officials of the P5-plus-1: the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China — plus Germany. Ms. Ashton was to meet with the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, before a formal session with all parties later Wednesday or on Thursday, Michael Mann, the European Union spokesman, said.
The White House, in a statement expose on Tuesday, said the talks present an “opportunity to halt the progress of the Iranian program and roll it back in key respects, while testing whether a comprehensive resolution can be achieved.”
The statement came after President Obama met congressional leaders to update them on the progress of negotiations and fend off criticism at home and abroad that the proposed deal was letting Iran off too lightly. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of six senators said an agreement easing sanctions “should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned.”
Much of the sharpest criticism has come from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who has attacked the terms under negotiation as “an extraordinarily bad deal” and in an interview with CNN on Sunday said sanctions should not be eased before Iran gave up its capacity to enrich uranium.
Mr. Zarif, speaking to reporters in Rome en route to Geneva said Israel was trying to “torpedo” negotiations and maintained the upbeat tone that Iran has adopted since the election of President Hassan Rouhani earlier this year. “I’m willing to accept serious progress instead of an agreement but I’m certain that, with the necessary political will, we can make progress and even reach an agreement,” he said.
In his speech, Ayatollah Khamenei repeated that Iran wanted relations with all countries, including the United States, but said American leaders were weak in facing Israel, which he called an “illegitimate regime” led by “untouchable rabid dogs.”
His speech, broadcast live on state television, illustrated the differences in foreign policy view points between Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Rouhani, who has promoted a campaign of détente with the West and a less strident foreign policy. But Ayatollah Khamenei, who has been the supreme leader since 1989, said that Iran’s relations with the West could never be normal.
“Our existence is rooted in confronting arrogance,” he said. “We must continue to disappoint our enemies.”
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