TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign minister urged step-by-step compromises between his country and world powers to advance negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Mohammad Javad Zarif’s remarks on Iran’s state TV referred to “phased actions” after reviving stalled talks with a six-nation group — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers of the p5+1 countries — US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – are scheduled to meet with Zarif on Thursday in New York to discuss restarting the talks.
Zarif did not elaborate in his comments late Wednesday, but it is seen a reference to gradual removal of sanctions by the West in return for a gradual decrease in Iran’s nuclear activities, possibly uranium enrichment.
The West fears Iran could eventually produce a nuclear weapon — a charge Iran denies.
On Wednesday, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said he would like to see a resolution to the international dispute over his country’s nuclear program within three to six months.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Rouhani said his “choice” would be a three-month timetable, and that six months would still be “good,” but this should be a matter of “months, not years.”
The urgency seems undoubtedly related to the immense pressure imposed on the Islamic Republic through four rounds of grueling economic sanctions. It many also reflect the Iranian leader’s fear a political backlash from his conservative opponents.
Rouhani told the Post that he was willing to offer extensive “transparency” into his country’s nuclear program, akin to the additional International Atomic Energy Agency inspection measures Iran allowed between 2003 and 2005, when he was chief nuclear negotiator.
With respect to rapprochement with Washington, Rouhani was restrained. He stressed his desire to first address the nuclear issue, for which he has been given wide-ranging authority from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
After that, Rouhani said, the US and Iran can discuss broader issues of normalization. “Once the nuclear file is settled, we can turn to other issues,” he said. “We need a beginning point.”
Relating to Iran’s rejection of a US offer for a meeting between Rouhani and President Barack Obama, Rouhani said that after 35 years of American-Iranian disconnection, “to begin talks requires some preparatory work.”