Iran ready for deal but won’t shut down nuke program, sources say

Netanyahu calls for increased pressure on Tehran as long as no action is seen; Rouhani says ‘win-win’ possible

Delegates from the P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva, at the start of two days of talks regarding Tehran's nuclear program, Tuesday, October 15, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Fabrice Coffrini)
Delegates from the P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva, at the start of two days of talks regarding Tehran's nuclear program, Tuesday, October 15, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Fabrice Coffrini)

Iran is reportedly willing to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and “greatly restrict” activity at its nuclear facilities in exchange for a lifting of Western economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, but won’t give up nuclear technology altogether, according to Israeli officials who were briefed on last week’s round of nuclear discussions between Iranian representatives and the P5+1 countries.

The Iranians essentially said that while they were unwilling to shut down their nuclear program entirely, they were prepared to discuss measures that would reassure the West, highly placed government sources told the Haaretz newspaper on Sunday. The Iranians “implied that a compromise was possible,” a source said.

The paper reported that US negotiator Wendy Sherman called Israeli National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror on Thursday to update him on the talks. At the same time, a team from the UK involved in the talks visited Tel Aviv to update officials.

The sources stressed that the P5+1 countries (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) made it clear to the Iranians that “even after Iran carries out certain measures, the easing of the sanctions will be limited,” and a full lifting of sanctions will only be possible “as part of a comprehensive agreement” on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting,  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday for international pressure [on Iran] to continue, and even be increased, as long as “we don’t see actions instead of words” from Tehran.

Netanyahu stressed that the world should not forget that Iran “systematically deceived the international community” with regard to its nuclear program.

The Haaretz report followed a Friday story in Al Monitor, which quoted an Iranian source with purported knowledge of last week’s two-day talks as saying that Tehran was ready to stop enriching uranium to 20%, convert its existing stockpile into fuel rods, relinquish spent fuel for the still-to-be completed Arak heavy water reactor, accept surprise inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and convert its Fordo underground enrichment facility into a fully-supervised research facility.

The Al Monitor report was denied by Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif.

The New York Times said Friday that the Obama administration was weighing a graduated unfreezing of Iranian overseas assets, without rescinding the sanctions themselves.

Israel’s Minister for Strategic and Intelligence Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, is set to travel to the US this week — both to be briefed on what was said in Geneva, and to warn Washington against being duped into premature concessions to Iran.

Netanyahu is also set to discuss the Iranian issue with US Secretary of State John Kerry during a Rome meeting this week.

Israel’s position, according to Hebrew media reports, is that the concessions offered by Tehran would still leave Iran with the infrastructure for a nuclear weapons program in the future. Netanyahu has repeatedly demanded that Iran be stripped of its entire “military nuclear” program, with Arak and Fordo closed, all capacity to enrich uranium removed, and already enriched uranium shipped out of the country.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said over the weekend that Iran has “the necessary political will” to strike a “win-win” deal with the international community over its nuclear program, the Tehran Times reported on Sunday. He added that last week’s meeting in Geneva, called the “most serious thus far,” by the White House, showed that “others became aware of the political will of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Tehran is seeking relief from years of crippling sanctions imposed upon it by the West, which Israel insists be kept in place as the only factor pushing Iran to negotiate.

Rouhani said that Tehran hopes that “effective steps will be taken to resolve” the sanctions imposed on Iran. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will make every effort to prove to the international community that all its measures are legal and that it has nothing to conceal,” he said.

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