Saturday, May 16, 2009

Report: U.S., Allies Put October Deadline on Progress from Iran

Arutz Sheva
Ernie Singer

( The United States and its European allies have set a target of early October to determine whether engagement with Iran is making progress or should lead to sanctions, according senior officials quoted Thursday by the Wall Street Journal. The officials said there are specific tests of that progress. They include willingness by the Tehran government to let United Nations monitors make snap inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities, as well as a halt in uranium enrichment if new economic sanctions are put off ahead of formal negotiations.

The officials said the deadline is partly driven by concerns in Israel and among America's Arab allies that Tehran could drag out negotiations indefinitely while advancing its nuclear program. Israel has often called for a time limit to be put on diplomacy against the Iranian nuclear threat. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates., in particular, have expressed alarm over Iran's support of terrorism in addition to the nuclear issue.

The U.S. also wants signs that Tehran will be willing to rein in its support for terrorist groups in the region. An American official who works on Iran policy said, "The timeline and these benchmarks are flexible, but we have to see some receptiveness from Iran." The quid pro quo was referred to as "freeze for freeze".

The U.S. target date comes about ten weeks after the Iranian presidential election. All Iran's presidential candidates have said they will not abandon enriching uranium, but Tehran political insiders with knowledge of the talks say Iran could agree to a short-term "freeze for freeze" formula. Iran would then offer that Western powers can freely monitor Iran's program to ensure it is not turning military -- in return for sharing technology and expertise.

The deadline also comes right after the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, where the U.S. would discuss the matter with other major world powers.

The Haaretz daily quoted US envoy Dennis Ross, as saying on Monday that Washington had set October as the deadline for concluding the first round of talks with Iran on the country's nuclear program. Iranian President Ahmadinejad responded, "They have probably specified a deadline for themselves, because basically they don't have the right to decide our fate."

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters on Wednesday that an American deadline for talks with Iran is of no use unless it is combined with a visible policy shift. "Iran's stance toward the United States is based on realities. Therefore, our decision will be made according to their practical moves," he said.

Iran is one of the topics on the agenda for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's meetings with American officials next week. He assured U.S. President Barack Obama this week that he would not suprise him by attacking the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities.

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