Six world powers have accepted an Iranian offer for talks on its disputed nuclear programme. EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who also represents the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany in their dealings with Iran, announced that the countries would take Iran up on its offer to restart nuclear negotiations.
Meanwhile, tension between the West and Iran has been rising. Israel has not been helping – it has been exerting pressure on the US to act against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapon development by threatening to launch attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Previously, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the UN Security Council visited Tehran not once, but twice, to try to engage Iranian officials in talks which Iran has been pushing for. Both ended unsuccessfully, with Tehran refusing to grant IAEA officials access to one of the many nuclear facilities where weapon development programs has been purportedly run. The military site is also known as Parchin, and recent satellite imagery taken of Iran has raised concerns that Tehran is attempting to “cleanse” the site to remove evidence of prior nuclear weapons development.
In a speech before a pro-Israel lobbying group last week, President Obama denounced “loose talk of war”, which he believes has only “benefited the Iranian government by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program”. Mr. Obama also emphasized that he considers diplomacy, as well as the sanctions which have been set in motion by the US and EU, as the most effective tools for getting Iran to not pursue a nuclear weapon. However, should diplomacy run dry, Mr. Obama has said that he will “not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests”, although this would be the last resort.
On the nuclear talks, French foreign minister Alain Juppe let known that he is “a little skeptical” and thinks that “Iran continues to be two-faced”. He believes that the West has to “continue to be extremely firm on sanctions”. Japan’s foreign minister Koichio Gemba, on the other hand, said yesterday that the country is in the final stage of talks with the US on cutting its imports of Iranian crude oil.
Report: US demands ‘actions’ from Iran in nuclear talks [AFP, 8 March 2012]
Report: Obama says new Iran talks should calm “drums of war” [Reuters, 7 March 2012]
Report: ‘Loose talk of war’ only helps Iran, President says [New York Times, 4 March]
Report: France says Iran ‘two-faced’, sceptical talks can succeed [Reuters, 7 March 2012]