Talks with Iran over nuclear program face dilemma

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Iran-over-nuclearVast differences between Iran and the six-nation coalition seeking to dismantle the Islamic republic’s nuclear program may lead to another short-term deal and that could renew criticism that Iran is stalling and energise the push in Congress for tougher sanctions even if they endanger negotiations.

Such a dilemma awaits the resumption of face-to-face talks set for next month. The six-month agreement achieved last November went into effect on Monday. The deal froze key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing some trade and financial penalties.

The agreement included a provision to renew the short-term accord for a period of time that would have to be agreed to by all parties.

Iran as well as the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China and aimed to clear the way for broader negotiations on the thorniest aspects of Iran’s nuclear program.

The talks could crumble if Iran violates the terms of the agreement or if the parties make no progress. Another extension would allow Iran to reap billions of dollars in eased economic sanctions while still refining its nuclear technology. But analysts say that may be the only feasible outcome.

“I think it’s extremely unlikely that it will be possible to reach a comprehensive agreement in the next six months,” said Gary Samore, who until last year was Obama’s top arms control adviser. “We’re in for a rolling series of extensions.”

It’s not clear what the US and its coalition partners would do if a comprehensive agreement isn’t reached in six months. US officials are meeting with their counterparts in the so-called P5+1 to plot strategy for the February meetings.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman RomainNadal told The Associated Press yesterday that the coalition’s priority is to reach a big deal and do so quickly.

“We are not going to go through a succession of interim deals,” Nadal said. He added that the push in Congress for tougher sanctions against Iran “increases the pressure.”

The White House has so far been able to hold off a Senate vote on a sanctions bill, arguing that it would violate the terms of the interim agreement with Iran and could disrupt diplomacy, even if Obama vetoes the bill.