Iran, Powers to Confer Further on Atomic Dispute

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat passes near an oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday. Iran's leaders intend to comply with a potential legislative mandate to place the strategic waterway off limits to petroleum deliveries for state backers of economic penalties against Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi).
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat passes near an oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday. Iran's leaders intend to comply with a potential legislative mandate to place the strategic waterway off limits to petroleum deliveries for state backers of economic penalties against Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi).

Iran and six major governments provided no signal of movement toward compromise on a long-running dispute over the Middle Eastern nation's nuclear activities after wrapping up a lower-level meeting on the matter on Wednesday, but the sides agreed to pursue additional dialogue, the New York Times reported (see GSN, July 3).

The exchange in Istanbul, Turkey, followed three meetings convened this year between higher-ranking representatives of Iran and counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Washington and its allies fear Iran's nuclear efforts are geared toward establishment of a weapons capability; Iran insists its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful (Gladstone/Erdbrink, New York Times, July 4).

"The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany "provided further detail of the [P-5+1] proposal given to Iran in Baghdad" in May, according to the office of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has communicated with Tehran on behalf of the six powers.

"Iran shared further detail of their proposal; and the experts explored positions on a number of technical subjects. The meeting lasted for a full day ending at 1:00 a.m.," Ashton's office indicated in a statement.

Iranian Supreme National Security Council Undersecretary Ali Bagheri is next slated to confer with Helga Schmid, a delegate for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, according to the statement (European Union release, July 4). The event's timing was still undecided, the Associated Press on Wednesday quoted an insider as saying (Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press/ABC News, July 4).

The upcoming discussion would mark the first step in the "Moscow plan" for addressing the dispute, McClatchy Newspapers reported. The negotiating nations uniformly endorsed the Moscow proposal at the end of this week's discussion; Russia previously put forward a blueprint for resolving the atomic standoff in stages (see GSN, Feb. 9).

A European diplomatic participant in the discussions said Bagheri's next encounter with Schmid would decide if broader dialogue would resume on the dispute.

Iranian representatives at this week's exchange provided no official statement, but one person in the group said: "We are smiling and that says it all" (Roy Gutman, McClatchy Newspapers/Washington Post, July 3).

Still, one involved Iranian government source expressed less optimism, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

"Sometimes I think that neither side understands each other," the source said, adding "the atmosphere" in this week's session was "quite mixed."

"Both sides want to show that the talks have some outcomes, even if it is [just] to set a date and venue for the next expert meeting," the insider added (Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, July 3).

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Wednesday said he "cannot say that we reached some sort of breakthrough or achieved decisive progress," Agence France-Presse reported.

"But we are not losing heart or think that the Istanbul meeting of experts was a failure," Ryabkov said to Interfax. "On the contrary, there are grounds to speak of certain progress" (Agence France-Presse I/Google News, July 4).

"The right (of Iran) to enrichment and the recognition of that right must come in exchange for putting the Iranian nuclear program under comprehensive international control," the Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying (Xinhua News Agency, July 4).

Russian Federation Council international affairs committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov on Tuesday cautioned a visiting group of U.S. lawmakers against taking too many punitive measures against Tehran over its atomic efforts, Interfax reported.

"Iran's possession of nuclear weapons does not meet Russia's interests, but I called for refraining from putting excessive pressure on Tehran. The meeting also addressed Turkey's increasing role in the region and reorientation of Ankara's foreign political course to the Middle East from Europe," Margelov said.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul took part in discussions with the U.S. congressional group headed by GOP Representative Kevin McCarthy of California (Interfax, July 4).

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, were set to confer on Thursday over the nuclear standoff and other issues, ITAR-Tass reported (ITAR-Tass, July 5).

Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said its nation's leaders intend to comply with a potential legislative mandate to place the strategic Strait of Hormuz off limits to petroleum deliveries for state backers of economic penalties against Tehran (see related GSN story, today).

"The parliament members are the nation's representatives and they reflect the Iranian nation's views and the Iranian nation's public opinion about the hostile moves against the country," Iran's Fars News Agency quoted spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.

Petroleum penalties against Iran are "provocative and threatening," Mehmanparast added. An EU embargo on Iranian petroleum took effect on Sunday.

"They should account for their actions and accept the consequences of such decisions, which will include social and economic crises in the Western countries," the official said (Fars News Agency I, July 3).

The United Arab Emirates plans next month to begin operating a new petroleum transfer line offering an alternative to the Strait of Hormuz, AFP quoted a UAE petroleum insider as saying on Tuesday (Agence France-Presse II/Google News, July 3).

A planned cooperative body would involve Iran's administration and legislature in efforts to respond to the penalties, Fars News reported (Fars News Agency II, July 3).

Tehran could pursue litigation over the measures at the International Court of Justice, the Mehr News Agency on Wednesday quoted Mohammad Nahavandian, the head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, as saying (Mehr News Agency, July 4).

Iran on Wednesday wrapped up a three-day Revolutionary Guard exercise after firing "Persian Gulf" projectiles at ocean-based locations and striking specified sites with unmanned aerial vehicles and jet aircraft, the nation's Press TV reported (Press TV, July 4).

"We have thought of measures to set up bases and deploy missiles to destroy [35 U.S. armed forces installations] in the early minutes after an attack," Fars News quoted Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division, as saying on Wednesday.

"All these bases are within the reach of our missiles. Meantime, the occupied (Palestinian) lands (Israel) are good targets for us as well," Hajizadeh said (Fars News Agency III, July 4).

Elsewhere, Iran has advanced its preparation of Bavar 373 air defenses, which would serve as a domestic replacement for Russia's S-300 system, Iranian Defense Minister said in comments reported on Monday by RIA Novosti. Until Russia deferred transfer of the air defense system in 2010, Iran was expected to field S-300 units that might have helped guard its atomic sites from potential airstrikes (RIA Novosti, July 2).

July 5, 2012
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Iran and six major governments provided no signal of movement toward compromise on a long-running dispute over the Middle Eastern nation's nuclear activities after wrapping up a lower-level meeting on the matter on Wednesday, but the sides agreed to pursue additional dialogue, the New York Times reported.

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