Iran and the group of six major powers negotiating a permanent agreement to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute concluded a two-day round of talks in Vienna on Wednesday, asserting that “a lot of intensive work” remained to complete a draft accord by their self-imposed deadline in three months.
The group reached a six-month agreement with Iran in November that took effect Jan. 20 in exchange for limited relief from Western economic sanctions and under which Iran suspended some nuclear activities in exchange for modest relief from sanctions imposed by the West that have impaired Iran’s economy.
The temporary accord, froze much of Iran’s nuclear energy activities and obliged the country to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that, with further enrichment, could be used to make atomic bombs, even though Iran insists that its nuclear work is for purely civilian purposes.
including granting access, in staggered amounts, to $4.2 billion of the approximately $100 billion of Iranian money impounded in foreign banks. The sanctions relief also allowed deals in some industries, including petrochemicals and automaking, that had been in an economic malaise, caused partly by Iran’s isolation. Under the temporary nuclear accord, all such work, including payments, must be completed by the July 20 deadline.
- The temporary accord was intended to give negotiators more time to complete a permanent agreement — meaning they are hoping to achieve that goal by July 20.
- Negotiators who met in Vienna last week said they still had major issues, suggesting that they were not yet close to the final drafting of a permanent accord. They agreed to meet again on May 13.
The permanent agreement is aimed at allaying foreign concerns that Iran will build atomic bombs with the enriched uranium from centrifuges it has constructed over the years, or from plutonium that can be harvested from a heavy-water reactor it has been building. Iran has repeatedly denied that it wants nuclear weapons but insists that it will never relinquish the right to nuclear power and technology.
The past dozen years Iran’s track record on this issue: have demonstrated a pattern of non-compliance with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and insufficient cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. For this reason, an effective monitoring program must include an unprecedented array of authorities and procedures, well beyond the NPT’s Additional Protocol.
The talks took place against rising tensions surrounding Iran’s estranged relations with the West, punctuated by new flare-ups with both the United States and the European Union on nonnuclear issues. The Americans have objected to Iran’s choice for a new United Nations ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi, contending that he participated in the seizure of American hostages in Tehran in 1979. Iran has expressed anger at European criticism of the country’s human rights record.
Outraged by his involvement in the 1979 hostage-taking of Americans in Tehran, the House unanimously passed the bill Thursday. That followed Senate passage on Monday, which was also unanimous. U.S. said it would not allow Iran’s proposed U.N. envoy Hamid Aboutalebi, a diplomat with links to the 1979 hostage crisis, to enter the country, Iran has dismissed the decision and affirmed it would take the issue directly to the U.N.
If signed by President Barack Obama, the bill would bar representatives to the United Nations from entering the U.S., where the U.N. is headquartered, if such persons have engaged in espionage or terrorist activities against the United States.
These privileges and immunities were generally provided within the terms of the bilateral agreements negotiated between the country in which the respective United Nations organization was to be headquartered and the organization itself –such agreements regulated the status of the organizations and their staff within the host country and came to be known as headquarters agreements or host country agreements.
In 1988, the U.S. denied a visa to then Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat to visit the U.N. on account of his group’s ties to terrorism.
Aboutalebi previously served as Iran’s ambassador to the European Union, Australia, Belgium and Italy. Under a 1947 treaty establishing the headquarters of the UN in New York, the U.S. is generally required to expeditiously approve visarequests for UN diplomats. But on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said visas can still be denied on “security, terrorism, and foreign policy” grounds. As such, the host country had no obligation to issue visas.
Advocates of strong sanctions against Iran have argued that even the modest relief afforded by the six-month deal has been counterproductive, signaling what Iran perceives to be a breach in Western resolve.
Some contend that Iran is openly defying the Obama administration’s declaration that Iranian oil exports, under the temporary accord, are limited to about one million barrels a day.
Data released on Friday by the International Energy Agency, a group of oil-importing countries including the United States, showed that Iran exported 1.65 million barrels a day in February, the highest in 20 months, and that March exports also exceeded one million barrels a day.
Mark D. Wallace, the chief executive of United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group in New York that has argued for far stricter sanctions, said the administration’s assurances had been “wholly contradicted by reality.”
The administration has contended that when averaged over six months, Iran’s oil exports will be closer to one million barrels a day.
Iran does appear to be selling more oil, its most important export, and the economy appears to have stabilized, according to a recent International Monetary Fund appraisal.
The starting point for an effective long-term agreement on Iran’s nuclear program must be an end to the obfuscation and furtiveness that has been a defining aspect of the world’s concerns about Tehran’s intentions.
Cliff Kupchan, an Iran specialist at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm, who has assessed the prospects for a successful negotiation at 60 percent, said negotiators must be able to say soon that they have made significant progress.
“In other words, there is one more meeting (May) in which no concrete news is O.K.,” he said in an emailed analysis of the talks. “After that, no news becomes worrisome.”