World restarts nuclear talks

21 February 2013

Discussions over Iran’s ambitious nuclear programme to reopen

All eyes will be on Iran on 26 February, when representatives from the Islamic Republic meet world leaders in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to reopen discussions over its nuclear programme.

This will be the first meeting between Iran and six other powers – UN Security Council members plus Germany – since negotiations in Moscow last June, which ended with little progress.

Commentators are not hopeful that any substantial agreements will emerge from the meeting, however. Fereydoun Abbasi, director of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, says Tehran will focus on the “future of energy in the world and about the role of each country in the welfare of human society”.  

Iran maintains that it has the right to develop nuclear technology for domestic energy purposes and that its facilities have passed inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Although discussions have been off the table since the three rounds in 2012, rising diplomatic tensions over the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran appear to have cooled, along with Israeli threats of a preemptive strike. 

The IAEA’s most recent report on Iran, released in November 2012, disclosed that it had not increased the number of operational centrifuges inside its most controversial facility – the Fordow enrichment plant.

Iran started to build the underground plant in secret more than five years ago near the city of Qom before it was discovered by Western intelligence services in 2009.

Tehran offered to reopen talks on the condition the US upholds its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes; a condition to which the US has been reluctant to agree, given Iran’s record of hiding facilities and its refusal to let the IAEA inspect certain operations.

It is unlikely the US will be satisfied enough with the situation to ease economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which have increasingly tightened over the past 12 months

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