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Experts: Iran shows readiness to “take steps” regarding its nuclear program

September 12, 2013, 15:38 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, September 12 (Itar-Tass) - Iran has demonstrated its readiness to take certain steps regarding its nuclear program, and the Western countries may agree to meet it halfway in view of the current turmoil in Syria, Russian analysts say. It will depend on the situation involving Iran’s nuclear program how the questions the Russian and Iranian presidents are to discuss in Bishkek on Friday will eventually be resolved. In particular, this applies to further military-technical cooperation and cooperation in the nuclear sphere.

Tehran is prepared for negotiations with the sextet of international mediators over its nuclear program, but it is not going to drop its uranium enrichment effort, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday. “We are fully prepared for fundamental talks with the whole world, with the sextet, and with the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he is quoted by the IRNA news agency as saying.

Tehran is firm in its intention to get uranium enriched to 20%, which it would be able to use for scientific research in the medical sphere and for meeting the country’s demand for nuclear power. In the meantime, the United States and a number of other Western countries and Israel suspect that Iran has been using its civilian nuclear program as a cover-up for nuclear arms development.

“If the opposite side is really seriously-minded, Iran’s nuclear problem will be resolved within the tightest deadlines,” Rouhani said.

This statement means that Iran is genuinely prepared for making certain changes over its nuclear program, says Vladimir Sotnikov, a leading researcher at the Oriental Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. But, whatever the president may say, it is up to the spiritual leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, to make a final decision, Sotnikov told Itar-Tass in an interview.

Washington imposed sanctions on Iran back in 2012. The export of oil - the main source of Iran’s hard currency revenue - has slumped 50% over the past year. The annual losses, according to some estimates by experts, have reached 35 billion dollars. Hence the growth of unemployment and the fall of the national currency’s exchange rate. Ever since Rouhani was elected president Teheran has issued repeated positive signals to the West, hoping to achieve an easing of sanctions.

Sotnikov believes that Iran should have agreed to a suspension of uranium enrichment, the way it did in 2003. This is quite possible, if the United States and the other Western countries agree to compromise with Teheran over sanctions. The United States’ stance is the main stumbling block in the way of resolving Iran’s nuclear problem, Sotnikov says with certainty. But that stance is unlikely to be very firm, bearing in mind the complications following the latest developments in Syria, he said.

The West, where the election of Rouhani raised certain hopes for a settlement of the problem, has already made some favourable gestures. The European court of general jurisdiction in Luxembourg has made a decision to lift the freeze from the accounts of seven Iranian banks and companies. And the US Administration has eased the regimen of sanctions against Iran somewhat to enable the US representatives of humanitarian organizations to operate in Iranian territory and to maintain cooperation between the sports associations of the two countries.

Nobody expects the forthcoming talks to be easy, though.

“There is the fear that the West is unprepared for negotiations yet,” the director of the Centre for Social and Political Studies, Vladimir Yevseyev, told the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “Firstly, too much hope is pinned on Rouhani’s presidency. Secondly, it is wrongly presumed that Iran’s new president is obliged to make concessions. Thirdly, the members of the sextet are going to do bargaining with Tehran, while the Iranians remain adamantly defiant. The Iranians wish to look the winners, and not losers who have succumbed to sanctions.”

“Rouhani is in a very precarious position,” says Vladimir Sazhin, an expert at the oriental studies institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

On the one hand, his compromises with the sextet, the UN Security Council and the IAEA are to satisfy Iran’s opponents, and on the other, not to anger radical patriots and Islamists inside the country. The Iranian nuclear program is a national obsession. Rouhani has to be very cautious. He is unable to take any spontaneous action. He will have to act step by step.”

On September 13 Putin and Rouhani will hold their first meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit in Bishkek. Russian presidential press-secretary Dmitry Peskov has said it will encompass all aspects of bilateral relations, including military-technical cooperation.”

“In the first place they will discuss further cooperation in the nuclear field, including the construction of a second reactor at Bushehr,” Sotnikov said. “And most probably the Russian and Iranian leaders will raise the issue of Russian S-300 air defence complexes. Now time is ripe for settling the outstanding problems.”

Teheran has filed a four-billion-dollar lawsuit against Russia at the Geneva court of arbitration. It demands a compensation for the severing of the S-300 air defence complexes supply contract. At the same time Iran says it will revoke it, if Moscow honors the original agreements.

For a positive solution of these issues, the analyst said, progress must be achieved in settling the problem of Iran’s nuclear program.

By and large Russian-Iranian relations are stable, Sotnikov said. “Iran is a strategic partner of Russia,” he remarked with certainty. The more so, since the tensions over Syria have brought the two countries closer together.