Iran reportedly claiming world has recognized its ‘right to enrich uranium’

Iranian FM Zarif says only ‘one or two issues’ of major significance yet to be resolved in Geneva; WH remains hopeful for deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (photo credit: AP/Craig Ruttle/File)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (photo credit: AP/Craig Ruttle/File)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday that Iran and the P5+1 are in agreement on 90 percent of the issues in the ongoing discussions over his country’s nuclear program in Geneva.

According to Israel’s Channel 2 news, Iranian participants in the talks claim the P5+1 nations have now recognized Iran’s “right to enrich uranium” — a major concession that Israel has warned would essentially legitimize the rogue Iranian nuclear program.

When the previous round of talks broke down in Geneva two weeks ago, the interim deal on offer reportedly provided for Iran to continue enriching uranium to 3.5% in the coming six months, pending a permanent deal. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu castigated the deal as “bad” and “dangerous,” and began a prolonged round of public sniping with US Secretary of State John Kerry over the deal.

Zarif said Friday Iran “had not changed our position” in the talks, which included ensuring that the international community respected what he called Iran’s “right to  peaceful use of nuclear energy, including enrichment.”

“It should become clear today if we want to reach… a conclusion in the ongoing round of talks or further negotiation events are needed,” Zarif told reporters. “Numerically speaking, perhaps 90 percent of progress has been made,” Zarif said, adding that there were still “one or two issues which are of great significance” to agree on.

One of those issues is likely the heavy water facility near Arak, according to a US official close to the talks. The enrichment issue and the scope of sanctions relief also appeared to be key sticking points Friday between the two top negotiators, Zarif and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top diplomat.

The Obama administration remained hopeful that a deal could be reached this time around in Geneva.

“We hope that an agreement can be reached,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

“The Iranians decided they were not able come to an agreement in the previous round, but we remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement with all of our P5+1 allies and the Iranians in Geneva.”

In Moscow on Wednesday, Netanyahu, speaking at a joint press conference with President Vladimir Putin, reiterated his demand for the full dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program. Netanyahu insisted that the international community must demand the closure of the Arak facility, and the cessation of all Iranian uranium enrichment. “We believe it is possible to reach a better agreement, but it requires us to be consistent and persistent,” he said.

Despite reportedly difficult negotiations early Friday, news that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was on his way to Geneva sparked afternoon rumors that an imminent breakthrough may still be possible. Israel Radio cited US sources who said Kerry may also be on his way to join talks shortly.

Zarif and Ashton have met repeatedly since Wednesday to hammer out language on a nuclear deal acceptable to both Tehran and six world powers, the P5+1, trying to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

The negotiations were supposed to be held between the six and Tehran, but those talks have been put on hold except for a brief meeting Wednesday. Instead, Zarif and Ashton have met numerous times seeking to agree on a text that she would take to the six for approval.

The two met again briefly Friday for talks that Iran’s official IRNA news agency described as “complicated and tough.” It quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi in Geneva that Iran’s right to uranium enrichment must be part of any deal.

“We’re currently working on a text, the majority of provisions of which there is common understanding on, and this points to progress,” Araqchi was quoted as saying by Iran’s IRNA news agency.

“If the other side show flexibility, we can reach an agreement. If the (P5+1) is not flexible in its excessive demands, the negotiations will not progress.”

Iran says it is enriching only for reactor fuel, medical uses and research. But the technology can also produce nuclear warhead material.

Zarif last weekend indicated that Iran is ready to sign a deal that does not expressly state Iran’s right to enrich, raising hopes that a deal could be sealed at the current Geneva round.

On Wednesday, however, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country would never compromise on “red lines.” Since then Tehran has reverted to its original line — that the six powers must recognize this activity as Iran’s right under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty despite strong opposition by Israel and within the US Congress.

A senior Iranian negotiator said that the Iranian claim did not need to be explicitly recognized in any initial deal, despite Khamenei’s comment. He did suggest, however, that language on that point remained contentious, along with other differences. He demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the diplomatic maneuvering.

Sanctions relief was also an issue.

The United States and its allies have signaled they are ready to ease some sanctions in return for a first-step deal that starts to put limits on Iran’s nuclear program. But they insist that the most severe penalties — on Tehran’s oil exports and banking sector — will remain until the two sides reach a comprehensive agreement to minimize Iran’s nuclear arms-making capacity.

Iran says it does not want such weapons and has indicated it’s ready to start rolling back its program but wants greater and faster sanctions relief than that being offered.

Several Democrat and Republican senators have voiced displeasure with the parameters of the potential agreement, arguing that the US and its partners are offering too much for something short of a full freeze on uranium enrichment.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that he would support legislation to expand sanctions against Iran, though he said he also backs the negotiating effort. Reid said the threat of more sanctions was essential to get an acceptable deal.

Sen. Bob Corker, the Republicans’ top member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday proposed a bill outlining a final agreement, including an end to all Iranian enrichment activity, and seeking to restrict President Barack Obama’s capacity to offer sanctions relief.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced Friday that Lavrov was flying to Geneva Friday to take part in the Iran talks.

The ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that Lavrov may also meet in Geneva with UN’s top Syrian envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Lavrov said Wednesday that he could meet with Kerry this week, but didn’t specify where the meeting would take place.

Most Popular
read more: