|Iran, major powers to start expert-level nuclear talks||
TEHRAN – Experts from Iran and the major powers will hold a meeting in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for the next round of political-level talks which will start in Vienna on May 13, Iranian negotiator Hamid Baeidinejad told IRNA on Monday.
The expert-level talks will be held on the sidelines of the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which started on April 27 at the United Nations headquarters in New York and will continue until May 9.
Baeidinejad, the director general of the political department of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, will lead Iran’s negotiating team at the New York talks with the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany).
The Vienna talks are meant to build on an interim deal struck in Geneva in November 2013 to reach a comprehensive agreement to help resolve the decade-long dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Under the Geneva deal, Iran agreed not to expand its nuclear program for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The agreement came into force on January 20. Iran and the major powers have set a July 20 deadline to clinch a long-term nuclear deal.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, has said he remains optimistic about nuclear talks between Iran and the six powers, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.
“We see encouraging signs that both sides are showing flexibility and pragmatism that is necessary to put together the final package,” he said.
The Associated Press also quoted Patricia Lewis, former head of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research who now directs research on international security at London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs, as saying, “there’s been a big change” in Iran’s approach compared to two years ago, “when it was just constant stalemate” on efforts meant to resolve the issue.
“There has been real moving ahead and real genuine progress in what they’ve been trying to achieve,” she said. “They’re small steps, but they’re significant steps. I would say, so far, so good. I’m holding my breath.”
Kimball said the toughest issues for the experts include trying to agree on how many centrifuges Iran will be allowed to keep to enrich uranium, and in what time period, and the sequence and pacing of sanctions relief.
Lewis said Iran is going to be allowed to enrich uranium to five percent and not beyond, which is what most countries do. But Tehran has a research reactor that provides medical isotopes and requires 20 percent-enriched uranium, so that’s a big issue.
She said another big issue is deciding what to do about Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak.
Iran has announced that it is ready to redesign the Arak reactor to greatly reduce the amount of plutonium it can produce.
Lewis, a nuclear physicist, said phasing out sanctions is controversial, particularly in the United States, and there must be fallback positions in case things don’t go well.
Mikhail Uliyanov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Arms Control and Nonproliferation, told the NPT preparatory conference on April 21 that Iran’s “unprecedentedly constructive cooperation” with the IAEA and the six powers “gives grounds to hope for a successful outcome of the talks.”
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