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News | IAEA and Iran Reach Agreement; Senate Approves Tougher Sanctions

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

23 May 2012 01:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

AmanoSittingAyatollahPortrait.jpg 1 a.m. IRDT, 3 Khordad/May 23 Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), announced that he had reached an agreement during his one-day trip to Iran that will allow his inspectors to visit the Parchin military site 12 miles southeast of Tehran. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency and Iranian officials agreed to create a document that will outline the steps necessary for Iran to address suspicions over its nuclear program. ISNA, the Iranian Students News Agency, confirmed that an agreement had been reached.

This is the first time since June 2007 that the IAEA and Iran have agreed on a protocol to give agency inspectors greater access to the Islamic Republic's facilities. Parchin, where Iran has produced conventional military explosives and ammunition for several decades, has been a focus of attention since the IAEA report this past November in which the agency claimed that Iran might have conducted experiments with high explosives there that are relevant to triggering a nuclear device.

Speaking to reporters in Vienna upon his return from Tehran, Amano said, "There was an important development on the structured approach document on which we have been working since January. The decision was made to conclude and sign an agreement." Regarding when the agreement will be signed, Amano said, "At this stage, I can say it will be signed quite soon, but I cannot say how soon it will be." The agreement comes as negotiators from the P5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- are heading to Baghdad for a second round of talks Wednesday over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, after a successful first round that was held in Istanbul on April 14. "There remain some differences, but Mr. [Saeed] Jalili [Iran's chief nuclear negotiator] elaborated that the differences will not be an obstacle to reach an agreement," Amano told reporters. "We understood each other's positions better. That was the reason we could make this important development."

Earlier, in Tehran, Amano said that the agreement will have a positive effect on the upcoming Baghdad negotiations. When asked how information about Iran's nuclear program that led to the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists ended up in the hands of Western intelligence agencies, Amano responded, "The agency has a specific task for protecting the information, and I do what I can to protect classified information.... Regarding the assassinations, I have sympathies for the people; the agency has nothing to do with the assassinations, and I am opposed to [the use] of violence."

Following the meeting, Jalili said, "We had very good talks with Amano today and, God willing, we will have good cooperation in the future.... The Islamic Republic of Iran is a strong supporter of worldwide nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and peaceful use of nuclear energy by every signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." Jalili arrived in Baghdad on Monday night, accompanied by Ali Bagheri, his deputy at the Supreme National Security Council; Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Oceania Abbas Araghchi; Hamid Reza Asgari, an adviser to Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi; and Mostafa Dolatyar, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official. On Tuesday, Jalili met with Seyyed Ammar al-Hakim, who leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani.

The Baghdad negotiations will be held in an auditorium in the building where Iraq's prime minister works. Reports indicate that 15,000 Iraqi security forces have saturated the streets in Baghdad, and 15 helicopters have been put on high alert for the security of the participants. Apparently, the negotiations might be delayed for a short time, because Baghdad has been experiencing dust storms, making it difficult to land in its airport.

Reaction outside Iran

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed skepticism over the agreement between Iran and the IAEA, asserting the Iranians are trying to create a "deception of progress" to stave off international pressure. "It looks like the Iranians are trying to reach a technical agreement that will create a deception of progress in talks in order to reduce the pressure ahead of talks tomorrow in Baghdad and postpone harshening of sanctions," Barak said, according to a statement released by his ministry. "Israel believes that a clear bar should be set for Iran that won't leave room for any window or crack for Iran to proceed toward military nuclear capability.... It's forbidden to make any concessions to Iran. [The w]orld powers' demands must be clear and unequivocal."

As it becomes more evident that Iran is not producing nuclear weapons and has not made any decision to move forward in that direction -- as has been acknowledged by President Obama and many administration officials over the past few months -- Israel has been shifting its demand: from preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons to prohibiting Iran from developing its nuclear capabilities even for peaceful purposes.

As if to send a warning, on Monday the U.S. Senate approved legislation that, if it becomes law, would target the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, require companies that trade on the U.S. stock exchange to disclose any Iran-related business to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and xpand penalties for energy and uranium mining joint ventures with Tehran. It would also deny visas to and freeze the assets of individuals and companies that supply Iran with technology, such as surveillance equipment, that may be used to crack down on the Iranian people.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement in which he declared, "Any comprehensive policy that seeks to end Iran's effort to acquire a nuclear weapon needs to convince the rulers in Tehran that their survival is in question. While sanctions are one part of convincing the Supreme Leader that the costs of pursuing this weapon outweigh any perceived benefit, Senate Republicans insisted that the Senate pass nothing less than the president's commitment that all options are on the table, in order to prevent any contrary perception that silence on the use of force would have created."

Reaction in Iran

In an editorial, Shafaf, a website that is close to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards' air force wing who is widely believed to be planning a run for presidency next year, wondered why Amano had to rush to Tehran only two days before the Baghdad negotiations and opined that the goal of the trip should be to make transparent the relations between Iran, the IAEA, and the P5+1. The editorial stated, "It is clear that when Iran enters a step-by-step negotiation with the P5+1, then for every positive step that Iran take, there must be a reciprocal step by the P5+1. [Thus], the cooperation between Iran and the Agency must be part of the negotiations with P5+1." As a result, it concluded that the P5+1 must take positive steps toward Iran in view of the agreement with the IAEA, "but it does not appear that this group [P5+1] is willing to decide its position regarding the cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, meaning that it is not willing to view it as part of its dealings with Iran, and thus is not willing to take reciprocal steps."

Wednesday is also the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Iran's Persian Gulf port of Khorramshahr from occupation by Iraqi armed forces. Iranian media outlets have pointed out that on this anniversary the Islamic Republic will score another victory in its negotiations with P5+1.

Finally, a new report indicates that last month Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, ordered all military commanders not to criticize the United States -- as well as certain countries in the region such as Saudi Arabia that are hostile toward Iran -- for three months to create an environment more conducive to negotiations with the IAEA and P5+1. This is another sign that Khamenei and his supporters are seeking a diplomatic solution to the standoff between Iran and the United States and its allies.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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