French caution stalls Iranian nuclear talks | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 10.11.2013
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French caution stalls Iranian nuclear talks

The three-day talks in Geneva on Iran's nuclear program were among the most successful in decades. One country not at the table had good reason to celebrate when negotiations stalled due to France's tough position.

By Saturday night (09.11.2013), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gave the first clues that three days' worth of meetings in Geneva might not result in an agreement with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

There was no assurance that an agreement would come of the talks, Fabius said. To French Public radio channel Inter he also said that there were points which Paris would not be "satisfied with compared to the initial text." Fabius then pointed toward Iran's heavy water reactor in Arak, which in principle would produce plutonium for military purposes, as particularly problematic.

Geneva Iranian nuclear talks

The Geneva talks were among the most successful in decades

Another issue, the French minister said, is whether Iran's inventory of 20-percent-enriched uranium could be converted to the less dangerous five-percent threshold typically used in light water reactors for making power.

Only when these issues can be solved, according to Fabius, can an agreement be made, adding that France did not want to take part in a "con game." The minister also said that negotiations would have to take into account the security of Israel and the region.

France's AFP news agency, however, reported an anonymous American diplomat who was frustrated with France's minister. The US, EU and Iran, the diplomat said, have been working for months on a deal, with Fabius' resistance representing little more than an attempt to shine the spotlight on himself.

Israeli relief

One of the few who could celebrate the announcement Sunday morning that negotiations between the six world powers and Iran had failed was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He had reacted indignantly on Friday to news of a possible agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran that wouldn't include a full stop to its atomic program, calling it "the deal of the century for Iran." Netanyahu also re-emphasized that his country would not be bound by any potential international agreement made in Geneva.

"Netanyahu and Israel's political conservatives have no interest in a solution in the nuclear conflict with Iran," said Cologne political scientist Siebo Janssen in an interview with DW. "The hardliners are so strong in Israel because they can, among other things, present Iran as the image of the enemy to its population."

Any reconciliation with the West, Janssen added, threatens Netanyahu's political stability.

US and Iran

But even if France shows concern for Israel's situation, the Middle Eastern country cannot ultimately accept an agreement, Janssen says. "Whatever a future agreement might look like, it'll definitely represent a frist step in the normalization of relations between Iran and the West after eight years of Ahmadinejad," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry checks his Blackberry before a meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Geneva, November 9, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed (SWITZERLAND - Tags: POLITICS)

John Kerry said 'significant progress was made' over the weekend

According to political scientist Mehrzad Boroujerdi in New York, Israel has its back against the wall. "Israel has nothing left except to try for influence through its lobby group in Washington," Boroujerdi told DW. "But it's doubtful that the US will give into Israeli pressure. Washington has a clear interest in a solution to the conflict."

The fact that the administration of moderate Iranian President Hasan Rouhani could - after years of standstill - finally result in a compromise plays into the hands of moderates and reformers in Iran, Janssen says.

"An easing of sanctions against Iran, even if limited, could lead to an opening and liberalizing of the country. A compromise with the West strengthens Rouhani's position and sends a signal domestically to opponents of the president. He'd show that the foreign policy course of the conservative hardliners was wrong."

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