Iran suggested it was ready to address calls to give the UN atomic watchdog wider inspection powers as part of Tehran’s proposals to resolve a decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.
Meanwhile, Israel kept up its alarmist rhetoric on talks between world powers and Iran Wednesday, with a cabinet minister comparing the situation to pre-war Europe and the appeasement of Nazi Germany.
The comments from Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi appeared to be the first specific indication of what concessions Tehran might be prepared to make in return for the removal of sanctions hurting its oil-dependent economy.
Iran presented a three-phase plan for ending the standoff over its nuclear program during the first day of an October 15-16 meeting with six world powers in Geneva on Tuesday. The talks were due to resume later on Wednesday.
The seven countries will likely meet again in Geneva in several weeks time to try to hammer out details of an emerging agreement aimed at ending the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.
Iran did not give details of its proposal on Tuesday, but said it included monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based UN nuclear body which regularly inspects declared Iranian facilities.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency asked Araqchi about the issues of uranium enrichment and the so-called Additional Protocol to Iran’s agreement with the IAEA.
“Neither of these issues are within the first step (of the Iranian proposal) but form part of our last steps,” he replied without going into further details, in comments reported on Wednesday.
The Additional Protocol allows unannounced inspections outside of declared nuclear sites and it is seen as a vital tool at the IAEA’s disposal to make sure that a country does not have any hidden nuclear work.
The world powers have long demanded that Iran implement the protocol. Iran says it is voluntary.
The powers – the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – also want Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment program and suspend higher-level activity.
Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, Iran’s stated aim, but can also provide the fissile core of a nuclear bomb if processed further, which the West claims may be Tehran’s ultimate goal.
Western diplomats stress they want Tehran to back up its newly conciliatory language with concrete actions.
Both sides are trying to dampen expectations of any rapid breakthrough at the two-day meeting, the first to be held since President Hassan Rohani took office, promising conciliation over confrontation in Iran’s relations with the world.
“We view the nuclear talks in Geneva with hope and with concern. We see the worrying signs and we don’t want Geneva 2013 to turn into Munich 1938,” Israeli International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz said in remarks broadcast by Israel’s army radio.
Steinitz was alluding to the 1938 Munich agreement under which Britain and France agreed to the annexation of large swathes of then Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany in a failed bid to avert war.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday urged world powers to avoid a partial deal with Tehran which could see a relaxing of sanctions, saying Israel reserved the right to carry out a unilateral military strike against Iran.
“Pre-emptive strikes must not be ruled out,” he told the Israeli Knesset.
“Such strikes are not necessarily called for in every case… but there are situations in which thinking about the international response to such a step is not equal to the bloody price we would pay” for the existence of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Israel is the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed power.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)