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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Mar 02nd
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock
Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock PDF Print E-mail
Written by NYTimes   
Sunday, 20 July 2008

The Iranian and American representatives Saeed Jalili, left, and William J. Burns, third from right, in Geneva on Saturday.
The Iranian and American representatives Saeed Jalili, left, and William J. Burns, third from right, in Geneva on Saturday.

GENEVA — International talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions ended in deadlock on Saturday, despite the Bush administration’s decision to reverse policy and send a senior American official to the table for the first time.

The presence of William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, was one of the most important encounters between Iran and the United States since relations were severed nearly three decades ago. And it was part of a rare show of unity among the six negotiating partners — the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — who pressed Iran to accept compromise.

But Iran responded with a written document that failed to address the main issue: international demands that it stop enriching uranium. And Iranian diplomats reiterated before the talks that they considered the issue nonnegotiable.

Specifically, the world powers wanted Iran to accept a formula known as “freeze-for-freeze” to break the deadlock. Under the formula, Iran would not add to its nuclear program, and the United States and other powers would not seek new international sanctions for six weeks to pave the way for formal negotiations. The proposal was originally offered to Iran last year and presented again to it last month as part of a new proposal to ultimately give Iran economic and political incentives if it stops producing enriched uranium.

But officials involved in Saturday’s negotiations said that when they repeatedly pressed the Iranians to say whether they could accept the idea, the question was evaded every time.

“We still didn’t get the answer we were looking for,” the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said at a news conference after several hours of talks, held in Geneva’s City Hall.

Mr. Solana said the Iranians were given two weeks to formally respond to the proposal before it would be withdrawn.

At the news conference, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator, refused to answer whether Iran would accept a freeze of its uranium enrichment program, however temporary. But he called the negotiating process a “very beautiful endeavor” with a result that he hoped would eventually be “beautiful to behold.”

Mr. Burns did not speak privately with Mr. Jalili. But in a brief statement in the morning meeting, he said that the United States was serious in its support for the six-power process and serious that Iran must suspend its production of enriched uranium, the State Department said.

He told his negotiating partners after the talks that the United States would push for new punitive sanctions at the United Nations Security Council in September, one participant in the meeting said.

Saturday’s meeting at Geneva’s City Hall was one of the most important public encounters between an Iranian and an American official since relations were halted after the American Embassy was seized in Tehran in 1979.

Other authorized meetings have occurred. Madeleine K. Albright, as secretary of state, for example, once sat at the same table with then Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and other emissaries at the United Nations to discuss Afghanistan. Colin L. Powell, as secretary of state, once shook Mr. Kharrazi’s hand. American and Iranian officials have met episodically in Baghdad to discuss Iraq’s security.

But Saturday’s meeting was the highest-level session between the countries during the Bush administration, which once branded Iran part of an “axis of evil” and has not ruled out military action against Iran because of its nuclear ambitions.

It comes as the Bush administration, in its final months, has told some of its closest allies that the United States was moving forward with a plan to establish an American diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time since the rupture in bilateral relations.

But for some, it is hard to understand why the Americans have made a diplomatic gesture with Mr. Burns’s participation at this time. America’s negotiating partners, particularly Britain, had wanted an American presence when they traveled to Tehran last month to present an enhanced package of incentives. That moment, officials said, would have been meaningful and more logical.

Instead, Mr. Burns came to the table when the Iranians were giving their reply, and there had never been a strong signal that it was going to be different from the past.

Despite the shift in American willingness to talk, one point of policy clearly has not changed: the Bush administration wants to avoid the impression that it is negotiating with Iran before it suspends its production of enriched uranium, which can be used to make electricity or fuel bombs.

Even the subject of a joint photograph was one of dispute. The only photo accepted by the American side was one with all parties at the table. The Americans objected to the idea of a photo of Mr. Solana and Mr. Jalili at a joint news conference with Mr. Burns and the other participants standing behind them.

Complicating the diplomacy was the fact that before Saturday’s talks, the six powers were not united on a joint strategy on how to proceed. The American delegation had told its partners that Mr. Burns’s appearance was a one-time event and that Iran had two weeks to decide whether to accept the “freeze-for-freeze” formula.

Germany, Russia and China, by contrast, argued that there should be time to explore the negotiating track with Iran.

There were other disagreements among the six powers as well. France and Britain have argued that there should be a precise definition of what the Iranians would have to freeze to open the way to formal talks.

But those disagreements evaporated during the talks with Iran. The six powers presented a united front in pushing the Iranians to give a clear answer on whether they were willing to make the good-faith gesture of halting new nuclear activity to pave the way for formal talks.



Past Coverage


Fox News' Amy Kellog on Iran ruling out suspending Uranium Enrichment - Saturday July 19, 2008






World > Countries and Territories > Iran > Nuclear Program

Iran's Nuclear Program

AP Photo/GeoEye/SIME

Iran's leadership says that its goal in developing a nuclear program is the ability to generate electricity without dipping into the oil supply it prefers to sell abroad. The Bush administration says the program is meant to give Iran nuclear weapons to use to intimidate its neighbors and threaten the existence of Israel.

Iran first nuclear program began in the 1960's under the Shah. It made little progress, and was abandoned after the 1979 revolution, which brought to power the hard-line Islamic regime. In the mid-1990's, a new effort began, raising suspicions in Washington and elsewhere. Iran insisted that it was living up to its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but in 2002, an exile group obtained documents revealing a clandestine program. Faced with the likelihood of international sanctions, the government of Mohammad Khatami agreed in 2003 to suspend work on uranium enrichment and allow a stepped-up level of inspections by the International Atomic Energy Association while continuing negotiations with Britain, France and Germany.

In August 2005, Mr. Khatami, a relative moderate, was succeeded as president by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is more conservative. Shortly thereafter, Iran announced that it was resuming work on turning uranium into a gaseous form, the first step in the so-called fuel cycle. The following January, Iran announced that it would resume enrichment work, leading the three European nations to break off their long-running talks. Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to enrich uranium, but the atomic energy association called for the program to be halted until questions about the earlier, secret program were resolved.


In May 2006, the United States, unable to win agreement at the United Nations for sanctions, dropped its longstanding opposition to negotiations with Iran, announcing that it would open to discussions that could lead to a variety of benefits if Iran suspended the enrichment program. After months of talks about talks, the United Nations voted in December 2006 to impose sanctions on Iran for failing to heed calls for a suspension. Mr. Ahmadinejad and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed defiance, and Iranian scientists continued the work of building a series of centrifuges that concentrate uranium by spinning the gas at very high speeds.

In Washington, administration hawks, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, were reported to favor consideration of more aggressive measures, including possible air strikes, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pushed for more diplomacy. In August 2007, Mohammad ElBaradei, the head of the international atomic agency, announced that he had struck a deal under which Iran agreed to resolve all outstanding questions quickly.

By the end of November, however, all parties appeared to be back to square one. Mr. ElBaradei reported that some, but not all, of the questions had been answered, and Iran's new nuclear negotiator announced that none of the years of previous discussions were relevant.

But then on Dec. 3, American intelligence agencies issued a new National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that the weapons portion of the Iranian nuclear program remained on hold. Contradicting the assessment made in 2005, the report stated that the Iranian government did not appear determined to obtain nuclear weapons, although it said Iran's intentions were unclear, and that the country probably could not produce a bomb until the middle of the next decade.

Dec. 3, 2007


Highlights From the Archives

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September 26, 2007WorldNews
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June 16, 2007WashingtonNews
Analysts Say a Nuclear Iran Is Years Away
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Experts said that Tehran lacks the skills, materials and equipment to make good on its immediate nuclear goals.

April 13, 2006WorldNews
Atomic Activity Resumes in Iran Amid Warnings
Atomic Activity Resumes in Iran Amid Warnings

Iran acted despite European threats to refer the case to the United Nations Security Council for punitive action.

August 9, 2005InternationalNews


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Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock

The international talks included one of the most important diplomatic encounters between Iran and the U.S. since 1979.

July 20, 2008
Using Bombs to Stave Off War

Should a conventional assault by Israel fail to stall the Iranian nuclear program, a ratcheting up of the Iranian-Israeli conflict to a nuclear level will most likely follow.

July 18, 2008
A Seat at the Table

President Bush’s decision to send one of his top diplomats to join the European Union’s diplomats in talks with Iran makes any incentives package look more credible.

July 18, 2008
Policy Shift Seen in U.S. Decision on Iran Talks

The decision by the Bush administration to send a senior official to talks with Iran infuses the negotiating track with new importance.

July 17, 2008
U.S. Envoy to Join Meeting With Iranian

President Bush has authorized the most significant U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran since the Islamic Revolution.

July 16, 2008
Iran Says Its Nuclear Policy Has Not Changed

Iran’s nuclear policy has not been changed by incentives, an Iranian government spokesman said, confirming that Iran would not comply with Security Council resolutions.

July 6, 2008
Iran Responds Obliquely to Nuclear Plan

Iran failed to address the central issue of whether it would halt its uranium enrichment activities, officials said.

July 5, 2008
Softer Tone From Iran Has Experts Guessing

Two top Iranian officials sounded conciliatory notes about the prospects of breaching the impasse between the West and Tehran over the country’s nuclear ambitions.

July 2, 2008
The North Korea Deal

Now that American diplomats are able to negotiate, there is a chance that North Korea can be persuaded to give up its weapons. That would make the world a safer place.

June 27, 2008
Iran: European Sanctions Condemned

Iran said new sanctions imposed by the European Union over its nuclear plans could hurt diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute.

June 25, 2008
Bush May End Term With Iran Issue Unsettled

Barring a move by Israel, the Bush administration would not be likely to pursue military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets, according to administration officials.

June 21, 2008
U.S. Says Israeli Exercise Seemed Directed at Iran

A large-scope Israeli military exercise underscored the seriousness with which it views Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. officials said.

June 20, 2008
Brown Says Europe Will Tighten Iran Sanctions

After talks with President Bush, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that Britain would freeze Iranian assets and increase its troop strength in Afghanistan.

June 17, 2008
Bush Says Iran Spurns New Offer on Uranium

A proposal with a new set of incentives to stop enriching uranium received a cold shoulder in Tehran.

June 15, 2008
Iran Unmoved by Threats on Its Atomic Program

Even as President Bush won new support from the Europeans, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran mocked attempts to rein in his country’s nuclear program.

June 12, 2008


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