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World

Israeli concerns linger after Iran nuclear talks

Despite reaching a major breakthrough, two days of talks about Iran's nuclear program proved more substantial than ever before. The negotiations in Geneva will be continued in November.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced in a joint statement - a diplomatic world premiere in and of itself - that the talks have been "substantial and forward-looking". Ashton said Zarif "outlined a plan for future talks." The Iranian proposals have been an "important contribution" that will be carefully examined, she added.

Zarif said his counterparts "showed the political will to bring the process forward." Now it is time for negotiators to hash out the details. What precisely was discussed during the meeting in Geneva was never officially made public, however, it seems unlikely that Iran would have agreed to stop enriching its own uranium.

Israel, Washington and Tehran are skeptical

Tehran's insistence on its right to enrich uranium inside Iran, rather than use only enriched uranium provided by other countries, is the reason why Israel wants to keep the pressure on Iran. Israel has said sanctions should only be lifted when Iran entirely stops its uranium enrichment.

"Although Israel is not sitting at the negotiation table, it has an influence on the Western parties," Siebo Janssen, a political researcher at the University of Cologne, told DW. "By all means Netanyahu wants to be sure that a deal with Iran will not pose a risk to Israel's security interests,"

In the United States there are also concerns in Congress about making concessions for Iran. Democrats and Republicans generally agree that pressure on Iran should not be eased too soon.

The concerns in Washington play in the hands of the hardliners in Tehran, who eye Iran's developing relationship with the West with skepticism. Before the Geneva talks, Yahya Rahim Safavi, a military advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned: "Until now, the Americans lacked any capacity to compromise. We should not trust them."

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (L) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a photo-op prior the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks on October 15, 2013 Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Ashton led the talks with Zarif and UN veto-powers plus Germany in Geneva

Pressure on weakened Iran

On the eve of the nuclear talks, the conservative newspaper "Resalat" criticized a speech by President Hassan Rouhani in which he discussed Iran's catastrophic economic situation. Rouhani's remarks would decisively weaken the Iranian delegation's negotiation position, according to the paper.

Iranian journalist Farzaneh Roostaei told DW that Rouhani made tactical mistakes ahead of the nuclear talks. "The statement that he wanted to reach an agreement with the West on the nuclear conflict within three to 12 months at all costs, Rouhani disclosed Iran's precarious situation and possibly prevented concessions from the West."

Roostaei said she believes that due to the weak state of Iran's economy, the country will have to agree to painful concessions in the nuclear program dispute in order for sanctions to be lifted.

"The West knows about Iran's poor economic situation," said Janssen. "Germany and the veto powers are smart enough not to humiliate Tehran. Otherwise the hardliners in Iran would regain strength. The West needs Iran, particularly considering the situation in Syria."

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