| Upbeat Putin calls Rouhani as powers gear up for Iran talks!

Upbeat Putin calls Rouhani as powers gear up for Iran talks ~ The Daily Star.

VIENNA: World powers and Iran geared up Monday for fresh nuclear negotiations, with Russian President Vladimir Putin telling Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani he was upbeat about prospects for a landmark accord.

Speaking two days before the talks resume in Geneva, Putin “stressed that a real chance has now emerged for finding a solution to this long-standing problem,” the Kremlin said.

But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “every right” to voice his opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran. However, he added, he believed Netanyahu was wrong to say the deal would hurt Israel’s security.

He said he had great respect for Netanyahu and his concerns that a deal with Iran would heighten the risk to the Jewish state, but that rather than make Israel less safe, a pact with Iran would actually reduce the country’s risk.

Rouhani, who has raised hopes for an end to the decadeold standoff, told Putin that “excessive demands could complicate the process toward a win-win agreement,” an Iranian government website said.

The comments came a day after French President Francois Hollande laid out in Israel the “essential” steps that Tehran must agree to with the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, known collectively as the P5+1 group.

These included stopping the enrichment of uranium to 20-percent purity, reducing enriched uranium stockpiles, and stopping construction of a new reactor at Arak, Hollande said.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the minor and reversible sanctions relief that the P5+1 is offering in return will be enough to persuade Tehran to play ball.

“I confirm here that we will maintain the sanctions as long as we are not certain that Iran has definitively renounced its military [nuclear program,” Hollande said Monday. “France will not let Iran arm itself with nuclear weapons.”

His remarks were made in an address to the Israeli parliament.

Iran’s economy has been punished by a string of international sanctions. U.S. and EU restrictions have more than halved its oil sales, sent the currency plummeting and inflation soaring.

One potential sticking point is Iran’s previous demand that the powers recognize its “right” to enrich uranium.

“No agreement will be reached without securing the rights of the Iranian nation,” Iran’s lead negotiator Abbas Araqchi said Sunday, predicting “difficult” talks.

Iran says it is enriching uranium to purities of up to 20 percent for civilian purposes. When further enriched to 90 percent, uranium can be used as fissile material in a nuclear bomb.

Iran’s ability to enrich to 20 percent is of particular concern because this is most of the way to what is needed to producing weapons-grade uranium.

Its stockpile is already large enough in theory to make several bombs.

At present, the U.N. atomic watchdog would detect any attempt to enrich to weapons-grade. But the fear is that soon this may no longer be the case as Iran adds to its 19,000 centrifuges, thus shortening its “breakout” time.

Even though it would only be a first phase initial deal, an accord in Geneva would be a major breakthrough after a decade of rising tensions and failed diplomatic initiatives.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week that since Rouhani took office, Iran had put the brakes on expanding its program.

But watching with a skeptical eye will be hard-liners in the United States and Iran, as well as Israel.

Any deal deemed too soft on Iran will make it harder for U.S. President Barack Obama to dissuade Congress from passing more sanctions, which might scupper the negotiations.

Rouhani, meanwhile, risks losing the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei if the relative moderate’s “charm offensive” since taking office fails to bear fruit soon.

“If Rouhani is not getting anywhere, the conservatives are going to make a strong comeback,” Trita Parsi, author and president of the National Iranian American Council, told AFP.

The toughest to please could be Israel, which sees its very existence threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran allied with Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal itself, Israel has refused to rule out bombing Iran’s facilities, as it reportedly did with an Iraqi reactor in 1981 and a Syrian facility in 2007.

“Iran’s dream deal is the world’s nightmare,” Netanyahu said Sunday.

Hollande’s trip to Israel was partly to try to ease Netanyahu’s concerns.

Kerry, who was expected in Israel Friday in what would have been his second visit in two weeks, said Monday he would try to make the trip after the Nov. 28 Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S..

Netanyahu will also meet Putin in Moscow Wednesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made clear Monday, however, that he felt some of Israel’s concerns were “divorced from reality.”




| Rouhani returns to mixed reception in Tehran!

Rouhani returns to mixed reception in Tehran ~ Al Jazeera.

Iranian president greeted by both flung shoe and grateful supporters after historic conversation with President Obama.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has returned to Tehran to a mixed reception, with one protester throwing a shoe at his vehicle while dozens of others chanted slogans in support of him, after having ahistoric conversation with Barack Obama, his US counterpart.

Some 60 demonstrators chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” as Rouhani’s motorcade drew out of Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on Saturday, but they were outnumbered by 200 to 300 supporters of the president who shouted: “Thank you Rouhani”.

A small police contingent separated the rival demonstrators.

The shoe missed the car and Rouhani stood up through the sunroof to acknowledge the crowds.

Before leaving New York where he attended the UN General Assembly, Rouhani had a 15-minute telephone conversation with President Obama on Friday, the first contact between leaders of the two countries since 1979.

Obama hails talks

Obama, speaking from the White House, said after speaking with Rouhani that he believed the two countries could reach a comprehensive solution over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The president said he and Rouhani had both directed their teams to work quickly to pursue an agreement.

He said the US will co-ordinate closely with its allies, including Israel, which considers an Iranian nuclear weapon capability to be an existential threat.

Obama said the conversation showed the possibility of moving forward and that it was a unique opportunity to make progress with Iran over an issue that has isolated it from the West.

Iranian and UN officials have been meeting to continue talks on how to investigate suspicions that Iran has worked secretly on trying to develop nuclear weapons, claims which are denied by Tehran.

Foreign language exchange

The impetus for the call came from Iranian officials, who US officials said told them hours earlier in New York that Rouhani wanted to speak to Obama before leaving the United Nations General Assembly.

The White House had indicated to Tehran earlier this week that it was open to an informal encounter between the leaders at the UN.

But the Iranians at the time said such a meeting was too complicated, raising questions as to whether Rouhani was wary of angering hardliners in Iran’s clerical hierarchy.

The leaders’ momentous conversation took place when Rouhani was on his way to the airport in his official limousine, the Iranian side said.

Obama spoke in English and Rouhani spoke Farsi as they chatted through interpreters, according to US officials.

But before hanging up, in an exchange that would have been thought impossible only days ago, Obama bade Rouhani “khodahafez” – Farsi for “goodbye.”

Rouhani replied “Have a good day, Mr President” in English, according to tweets by the Iranian leader’s office and a US official.




| High-level Iran nuclear talks finally begin at UN but WHERE’S Israel?

Iran nuclear: Kerry and Zarif meet at the UN ~ BBC.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) at the UN in New York (26 September)
Mr Kerry (L) and Mr Zarif (R) met on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The highest-level talks on Iran’s nuclear programme for at least six years have been held at the United Nations in New York.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Diplomats from the P5+1 group – China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany – were also present at the talks.

They agreed to hold substantive talks on the issue in the Swiss city of Geneva, beginning on 15 October.

Following the meeting, Mr Kerry said he was pleased that Mr Zarif “put possibilities on the table”, but said a lot of work remained to be done and that Iran would have to answer questions about its nuclear programme.

“One meeting and a change in tone, which was welcome, doesn’t answer those questions yet,” he said.

‘Nothing but peaceful’


image of James Reynolds
James ReynoldsBBC Iran correspondent

In recent years, the travelling brigade of nuclear negotiators has seen much of the world. Air miles aside, they have achieved almost nothing of substance. Diplomats have held talks in Geneva, Istanbul, Baghdad, Moscow, and Almaty. The most recent meeting was in Kazakhstan’s biggest city in April 2013.

At times it has been hard to describe the nuclear talks as actual negotiations. More accurately, they have often resembled parallel monologues. But the P5+1 is meeting a new Iranian team.

Iran’s newly appointed Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, replaces Saed Jalili as chief negotiator. Mr Zarif will report directly to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani – himself a former nuclear negotiator.

Mr Zarif called the talks “constructive” and said the diplomats had made progress on resolving international issues in a manner that respected the rights of the Iranian people.

“I am satisfied with this first step,” he said. “Now we have to see whether we can match our positive words with serious deeds so we can move forward.”

Mr Zarif insisted Iran’s nuclear programme was “nothing but peaceful” and pledged to prove it to the international community.

The Iranian foreign minister called sanctions against Iran “counterproductive” and added he hoped all bilateral, unilateral and multilateral sanctions would be lifted in the near future.

Likewise, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said afterwards the tone and spirit of the meeting were “extremely good”.

New Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said he wants to reach a deal on the nuclear dispute in three to six months.

But the Americans have said there will be no major concessions on sanctions until the Iranians take concrete steps to reassure the world they are not seeking nuclear weapons.

Iran reaches out

US Secretary of State John Kerry said there had been a “change in tone” from Iran

Earlier, President Rouhani told the UN General Assembly that no country should possess nuclear arms.

Iran has been negotiating over the nuclear issue since 2006 with the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.

Since Mr Rouhani’s election in June, Iranian officials have reached out to the West, saying they want to address concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme.

On Tuesday, Mr Rouhani told the General Assembly that he was prepared to engage in “time-bound and results-oriented” talks.

On Thursday, he called for stricter controls on nuclear weapons as part of a global effort to eventually rid the world of them.

“No nation should possess nuclear weapons, since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons,” he said, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement at the General Assembly.

‘Moderate course’

Hassan Rouhani: “The indefinite possession of nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated”

The P5+1 have asked Iran to halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20% – a step away from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.

They also demanded Iran shut down the Fordo underground enrichment facility.

In return, they offered to ease the sanctions that have severely affected Iran’s economy.

US President Barack Obama has welcomed the new Iranian president’s more “moderate course”.

He told the UN on Tuesday that the US wanted to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, but was determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Mr Rouhani has said he is fully empowered by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to negotiate on the issue.

The BBC’s Bridget Kendall, who is at the UN, says President Rouhani has signalled a sharp departure from the foreign policy and the tone of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose bombastic pronouncements at the UN in the past resulted in walk-outs.

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