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Iran offering new compromise in nuclear talks

By Reuters in Ankara and New York | China Daily | Updated: 2014-10-22 07:49

Iran is pushing what it portrays as a new compromise proposal in nuclear talks, but Western negotiators say it offers no viable concessions, underscoring how far apart the two sides are as they enter crunch time before a Nov 24 deadline.

In the negotiations with six major powers, the Iranians say they are no longer demanding a total end to economic sanctions in return for curbing their nuclear program and would accept initially lifting just the latest, most damaging, sanctions.

Western officials dismiss the proposal as nothing new and say the Iranians have always known that the sanctions could only end gradually - with each measure being suspended and later terminated only after Iranian compliance had been proved.

The officials say that in talks in Vienna, they too have offered what they call compromises over demands that Iran limit its nuclear program, but they have been rejected by Teheran.

"The bottom line is that they do not appear willing to limit their enrichment program to a level we would find acceptable," a European diplomat said. "We may have no choice but to extend the talks past November. ... It's either that or let the talks collapse."

Under their most recent offer, Iranian officials have told Reuters that Iran's leadership would be satisfied with removing crippling US and European Union energy and banking sanctions imposed in 2012.

They described this as a major stepdown from Iran's consistent calls for the removal of all sanctions imposed on Teheran because of its refusal to heed UN Security Council demands that it halt uranium enrichment work.

Teheran calls the sanctions unfair and illegal.

The proposal by Iranian negotiators in talks with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China has the backing of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian officials say.

"For the other party involved, it might be only a political issue, but for Iran, what is in danger is the existence of the establishment if the economic hardship continues," a senior Iranian official said.

Building on a UN Security Council sanctions resolution passed in 2010, the United States and EU in 2012 imposed major sanctions against Iranian oil and gas companies and strengthened restrictions on the country's central bank.

Under the US National Defense Authorization Act Section 1245, Washington also forced Iran's major oil customers to greatly reduce their purchases of Iranian oil or face having their banks cut off from the US financial system.

(China Daily 10/22/2014 page11)

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