Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s signal of flexibility this week regarding Western recognition of his nation’s right to enrich uranium offered heightened anticipation of an international deal as talks resumed on Wednesday in Geneva, the London Guardian reported.
Speaking on Tuesday, Zarif said Iran’s uranium-enrichment right is “non-negotiable” but his country sees “no necessity for its recognition as a right.”
The wording could remove the issue as an obstacle to agreement because of P-5+1 unease about explicitly granting in writing a right to engage in a process that many suspect Iran has used as an ostensibly peaceful cover for secretly moving toward a nuclear-arms capability.
This week’s confab constitutes the third such meeting since last month aimed at locking down an initial agreement on the Middle Eastern nation’s disputed nuclear activities, the New York Times reported.
Delegates from the six negotiating powers — China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — began Wednesday’s discussions by coordinating with their top interlocutor, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Ashton was next slated to meet one-on-one with Zarif on Wednesday, prior to a Wednesday or Thursday gathering of all the participants.
Proposals under consideration at the planned three-day meeting in Geneva would grant Iran a degree of relief from international economic pressure in exchange for steps to help assure other countries that its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful.
Both sides have indicated that they could yield some ground on key friction points that prevented them from reaching a deal in talks earlier this month, the Guardian reported on Tuesday. At that session, France pressed Tehran to halt preparation of a heavy-water reactor capable of generating bomb-usable plutonium upon completion, and Iran stressed its legal entitlement to enrich uranium — an activity that holds the potential to produce civilian atomic fuel as well as nuclear-bomb material.
France, for its part, is reportedly divided over its position on the Arak heavy-water site.
“There is a debate going on in Paris, between the Quai d’Orsay [the Foreign Ministry] and the Élysée [the presidency] on that position,” a French defense insider told the Guardian.
In a Wednesday attempt to reassure Iranian conservatives, the nation’s supreme religious leader said the government would adhere to strict limits on what it could concede, the Associated Press reported.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Tehran’s primary objective in the talks is “stabilization of the rights of the Iranian nation, including nuclear rights.”
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