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Quote:Iran nuclear deal in danger of unravelling

US negotiator leaves talks to reassure Israeli prime minister after France sinks bid to seal temporary agreement
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[Image: iran-nuclear-talks-at-ris-009.jpg]Binyamin Netanyahu, centre, and Israeli cabinet members meet at a kibbutz in the Negev desert to express alarm about the Iran talks. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

The diplomatic progress that brought six foreign ministers tantalisingly close to a historic agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme is in danger of unravelling before negotiators meet again this month, officials and analysts warned on Sunday.
In a bid to contain the danger, the lead US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, flew straight from the talks in Geneva to Israel to reassure Binyamin Netanyahu's government that the intended deal would not harm his country's national interests.
The hastily arranged trip represented an acknowledgement of Netanyahu's power to block a deal through his influence in the US Congress and in Europe. Egged on by the Israelis, the US Senate is poised to pass new sanctions that threaten to derail the talks before they get to their planned next round in 10 days' time.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said on Sunday that America was sufficiently sceptical of Iran's willingness to dismantle its nuclear programme and would keep sanctions in place as talks continue.
"We are not blind and I don't think we're stupid. We have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe," Kerry said on NBC's Meet the Press.
More immediately, Netanyahu demonstrated over the weekend that he could sway the Geneva talks from the inside through his relationship with Paris. It has emerged that after a call from Barack Obama on Friday evening asking him not to oppose the planned Geneva deal, Netanyahu did the opposite. He called British prime minister, David Cameron, Russian president Vladimir Putin, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president François Hollande, asking them to block it.
Hollande, whose government shared some of Israel's concerns, agreed. It was French opposition that finally sank the bid to seal a temporary nuclear accord, after three days of intense bargaining, in the early hours of Sunday morning, but Netanyahu was quick to claim credit.
Netanyahu told cabinet colleagues: "I told them that according to the information Israel has, the impending deal is bad and dangerous not just for us but for them too. I asked them what was the rush and I suggested that they wait and consider the matter seriously.
"The deal at once lifts the pressure of sanctions which have taken years to put in place, and leaves Iran with its nuclear and enrichment capabilities intact. Not one centrifuge is to be dismantled. These are historic decisions. I asked that they wait and I'm pleased they have decided [to do] so."
The French roadblock took Washington by surprise. There had been an initial day of discussions in Geneva on Thursday involving the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, and senior diplomats from the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, the six-nation group known as the P5+1 that has led the nuclear negotiations since 2006.
There had been an understanding that if the talks looked close to agreement, Kerry, who was in the Middle East last week, would come to Geneva to push them over the finishing line. But on Thursday night the Iranians forced his hand. Zarif announced that work on drafting an agreement would start the next morning and officials told the press Kerry would fly in the same day putting the US secretary of state in a bind. If he stayed away and the talks failed, he would be blamed. He was weighing the possibility of personal intervention anyway, officials in Geneva said, but would have preferred to have chosen the timing and made the announcement himself.
Kerry had an uncomfortable meeting with Netanyahu at Ben Gurion airport on Friday morning in which the Israeli prime minister lectured him on the dangers of deal with Iran which loosened sanctions without halting the nuclear project. The atmosphere was so sour, the Americans opted out of a joint press appearance.
Kerry took off for Geneva, but before he landed the draft agreement was under public attack from another, more unexpected quarter. The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told a French radio station that Paris would not accept a jeu des dupes a fools' game, casting doubt on when a deal could be concluded.
He broke an agreement not to discuss the content of the negotiations in public, outlining what France saw as the sticking points: Iran's heavy-water reactor in Arak and its stock of medium-enriched uranium, which are alternative pathways to making a bomb. The 20% uranium could be easily turned into weapons-grade material if Tehran should decide to make a warhead, but Iran was refusing to ship it out of the country. The negotiators had been looking at compromises such as diluting it or turning it into oxide reactor fuel, which would make it more difficult to enrich further. But Paris was concerned that such options did not give the same level of assurance that the stockpile would not one day used for a bomb.
France's unease about Arak was even greater. Once operational, the heavy water reactor would produce plutonium with its spent fuel. It was due to be completed next year, and Iran refused to halt production, saying it was essential for producing isotopes used in medicine, agriculture and other scientific research.
A compromise was being hatched by US and Iranian officials that would allow the Iranians to carry on building the reactor over the six-month period of the interim agreement, but only to test it with dummy fuel rods and ordinary water.
The French and the Israelis believed that was too high-risk a solution that would allow the Iranians to get so close to completion that they would be able to insert enriched uranium into the reactor with very little notice and present the world with a fait accompli. Once that was done, bombing the reactor would not be an option because it would send a radioactive plume across the region.
Kerry had been hoping to address the French reservations within P5+1, but Fabius refused to back down during a session of the foreign ministers that went late into Saturday morning. Zarif observed wryly that the P5+1 seemed to need more time to negotiate with each other than with Iran.
Other western officials were furious with what they saw as a French breach of the P5+1's jealously guarded unity.
"This is about France's interests in the Gulf and the fact that Hollande is going to Israel later this month and he doesn't want the trip to turn into a nightmare," one official said. French officials said the text drafted principally by the US and Iran was significantly different from the one discussed by the P5+1. "There are two parallel processes going on here, a multilateral one that has been going on for seven years, and a bilateral one, and the two have not come together properly. The cogs have got jammed," said an European official in Geneva.
France has long suspected the Obama administration of being too ready to make a deal with Iran for short-term diplomatic gains, but as recently as a year ago a senior French official told the Guardian that ultimately an agreement would have to be made between Washington and Tehran. Paris, whatever its reservations, would not stand in its way.
That calculation clearly no longer applies. Following the two countries' falling-out over Syria, in which the French believed the Obama administration was dithering, France now feels strong enough to oppose Washington on America's most pressing foreign policy issue a measure perhaps of America's waning influence in the world.

Curioser and cruiser...

Quote:Iranian deputy industry minister shot dead in Tehran

Safdar Rahmatabadi shot in head and chest in Iranian capital in second attack on government official in recent days

  • Associated Press in Tehran
  •, Monday 11 November 2013 08.29 GMT
[Image: Hassan-Rouhani-011.jpg]Rahmatabadi's killing came as President Hassan Rouhani Hassan Rouhani (above) emerged from peace talks in Geneva. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

Iran's deputy industry minister has been assassinated by an unidentified gunman, Iran's official news agency has reported.
Safdar Rahmatabadi was shot twice in head and chest on Sunday in an eastern neighbourhood of the capital, Tehran. Police believe the deputy minister was shot by someone travelling with him in his car, who spoke with him before opening fire.
Police have launched an investigation.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Rahmatabadi, whose portfolion included mining and commerce, was not a well-known public figure. He had served a similar role under the country's previous president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This was the second attack in recent days on a government official in Iran, and came as the more moderate leader, Hassan Rouhani, emerges from peace talks with world leaders in Geneva, seeking to resolve an impasse over Iran's nuclear programme.
On Wednesday, a gunman killed an Iranian state prosecutor in a restive south-eastern province of Sistan Baluchistan, near the country's border with Pakistan.

The following article is interesting because it looks to me like Kerry is now covering his arse and making it look as though the objections by the French were good - whereas in the article above, it looked the other way. I have bolded a para that speaks of this.

What now? Back to the war-war scenario as the jaw-jaw has been scuppered?

Quote:Last-minute rethink stalled deal on nuclear Iran

Details have emerged of how talks with Tehran in Geneva broke up at 11th hour after France and US took a robust stance
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[Image: French-foreign-minister-L-011.jpg]Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, arrives at the InterContinental in Geneva. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

A meeting in a Geneva hotel room between the US secretary of state and his French counterpart led to an 11th-hour toughening of the west's position on Iran's nuclear programme that proved unacceptable to Iranian negotiators, say western officials.
John Kerry's Saturday-night meeting with Laurent Fabius was a late turning point in three days of intense talks among foreign ministers that resulted only in a decision to resume negotiations at a lower level in Geneva next week.
In the discussion in the US secretary of state's room at the Geneva InterContinental, Fabius insisted on two key points in the drafting of an interim agreement with Iran: there should be no guarantees in the preamble about the country's right to enrich uranium; and work would have to stop on a heavy-water nuclear reactor. Iran is building the Arak reactor, capable of producing plutonium, about 130 miles south-west of Tehran.
In the words of one French official: "Kerry was confident enough to accept what Fabius had to say." The two points were included in a three-page draft proposal put together by the EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, who acts as a convenor for a six-nation group involved in the talks.
The draft agreement also imposed limits on Iran's enrichment capacity and its stockpiles of enriched uranium in return for limited sanction relief.
At 9.20pm on Saturday the agreement was put before foreign ministers from the UK, Germany, Russia and the deputy foreign minister of China, who make up the rest of the "P5+1" group, which has been negotiating with Iran for seven years.
"Kerry was even more forceful in presenting this draft than Fabius. He got behind it," the French official said. The P5+1 ministers approved it, and at 10.50pm it was put to the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had joined the meeting in a conference room in the hotel.
However, in the preamble of a joint statement, Zarif had been seeking language that would at least implicitly recognise Iran's right to enrich uranium. He had also insisted on construction continuing at Arak, and suggested that international concerns could be assuaged if the work stopped short of putting uranium fuel in the reactor and turning it on.
But at 10 minutes past midnight on Sunday morning, it was agreed that all parties would consult their capitals and try again at a meeting of foreign ministry political directors on 20 November. Ministers would not attend but could be on hand if needed.
Arriving in Abu Dhabi after the meeting, Kerry singled out Iran for the failure to agree. "The French signed off on it; we signed off on it," he said. "There was unity, but Iran couldn't take it."

Zarif took to Twitter to rebut that claim. "Mr Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night? And publicly commented against it Friday morning?" Zarif said in a pointed reference to Fabius's role. "No amount of spinning can change what happened in 5+1 in Geneva from 6PM Thurs. to 5.45 PM Sat. But it can further erode confidence"

Western officials conceded that unity had been achieved only on the last night of the negotiations, leaving little time for the Iranians to respond; much of the preceding 60 hours of talks had been among the P5+1 group seeking a common position.
The foreign secretary, William Hague, who took part in the talks, said that although there were still gaps between the sides, it should possible to resolve them. "While I cannot go into the details of the discussions while the talks continue, I can say that most of those gaps are now narrow, and many others were bridged altogether during the negotiations."
The UK today on Monday named a new non-resident chargé d'affaires for its embassy in Tehran, which has been empty since it was stormed by a mob in 2011. The appointment of Ajay Sharma, the current head of the Iran desk, followed bilateral talks on the margins of the Geneva talks. He is due to visit Tehran later this month, the first time a British diplomat has been there for two years.
Western officials argued strongly that the talks had made unprecedented progress on a previously intractable issue. "No breakthrough yet, but definitely no failure," said a senior diplomat. "The collective assessment of the group was that some more time would still be needed. That was not just the assessment of the French."
Another western diplomat added: "This issue was far too technical and too complicated for it to have been solved in a couple of days." But he added the sudden, unplanned convergence of foreign ministers on Geneva on Friday had created unrealistic expectations.
Kerry, prompted by an Iranian leak on Thursday night that he was on the way, asked to attend the negotiations. When he was then invited by Ashton, the other foreign ministers rushed to join him.
Fabius arrived first, concerned that the US and Iran would strike a bilateral agreement and present it to the other attendees as a fait accompli. But he immediately angered his colleagues by breaking a long-established agreement not to discuss the substance of the talks in public when he voiced his reservations on French radio.
Fabius denied that he had acted as a spoiler at the talks. "France is neither isolated, nor does she blindly follow," he told Europe 1 radio. "We are firm but not closed-minded, and I have great hope that there will be a good agreement."
Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, agreed that France had been unfairly lambasted. "At the end of the day, when cooler heads prevail, the French intervention will be seen as constructive," he said. "Only if you stop work on Arak can you decompress the discussions that there will have to be over the next few months."
It has also become clear that France was not the only participant in Geneva seeking to reflect the concerns of Iran's neighbours. Ashton believes any breakthrough would need to be "sustainable". She has expressed fears that an agreement that fails to pass muster with Israel, Saudi Arabia and others in the region could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
While the Geneva talks failed to produce an agreement, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, secured a deal in Tehran yesterday/today giving his inspectors access to two sites: a plant producing heavy water for the Arak reactor, and a uranium mine in Gchine on the Gulf coast.
The agreement was significant as it involved Iran going beyond the letter of its agreement with the IAEA in offering transparency, and an annex also obliged Tehran to provide design information on Arak and any other new reactors and uranium enrichment plants Iran might be planning. But it does not address the critical issue that has deadlocked the IAEA and Iran for years the agency's investigation into any nuclear weaponsdevelopment work Iran might have conducted in the past.
"I wouldn't say this agreement was entirely ho-hum but it does not address the big ticket issues. They aren't mentioned," Hibbs said. "It also talks about 'managed access' to the sites, so everything is still subject to further agreement by Tehran, and that makes it hostage to the atmosphere of the broader negotiations."

And then:


Iran to give UN inspectors more access to nuclear sites

VIENNA/DUBAI (REUTERS) - Iran will grant UN inspectors "managed access" to a uranium mine and a heavy-water plant within three months as part of a cooperation pact reached on Monday that aims to allay concern about Tehran's nuclear programme.
It was signed by UN nuclear agency chief Yukiya Amano in Tehran after Iran and six world powers came close to a preliminary nuclear agreement during broader talks in Geneva at the weekend and decided to meet again on Nov. 20.
The sets of negotiations are separate but both centre on fears that Iran may be seeking the capability to build nuclear weapons, a charge it denies. The deal may encourage hopes for next week's resumption of big power diplomacy after a decade of international deadlock on the issue.
"This is an important step forward to start with, but much more needs to be done," Mr Amano said in the Iranian capital.

From Straights Times
Kerry has been all over this like a wet rag. He has yet to get his ducks in a line.
Late yesterday:

Officials: Israel failed in stopping Iran deal

Senior state officials in Jerusalem admit diplomatic efforts to prevent nuclear agreement between Tehran, world powers have been unsuccessful. Sources also criticize conflict with US, say 'it's causing damage. Kerry is not Israel's enemy'
Attila Somfalvi
[TABLE="width: 408"]
[TD="width: 306"][TABLE]
[TD="class: text12g"]Published:[/TD]
[TD="class: text12g"]11.19.13, 09:11 / Israel News[/TD]
[TD="align: left"][/TD]

Iran and world powers, senior state officials in Jerusalem admitted Monday night.

The nuclear talks are expected to resume in Geneva on Wednesday, and Israeli officials estimate that unless an unexpected crisis takes place, an interim agreement will be signed in this round or shortly afterwards.

Meanwhile, sources in Jerusalem have also criticized the recent conflict with the United State. "It's causing damage. (US Secretary of State)
chico menashe


Diplomatic commentator, Israeli National Radio

Quote:chico menashe ‏@chicomenashe1h
Israeli officials:Obama's inner circle eager to sign deal with Iran,to delay hard decision to after his term.Kerry is not the one to blame

Quote:@chicomenashe's Radio News report now: Kerry out of loop on Iran deal, Israel kept in dark. Was France too? Explains its position

Quote:chico menashe ‏@chicomenashe1h
Israeli officials involved in talks with US: Iranians saw US weaknesses. Israel discovered the US-Iran backchannel but US denied.

Quote:Laura Rozen ‏@lrozen10m
Cpl days ago, Israel media rprts Sherman/Kerry split on Iran deal. Yst Obama inner circle bypassing Kerry 1/2 @lennybendavid@chicomenashe

Quote:chico menashe ‏@chicomenashe8h
Kerry abt delaying Israeli visit:I'm testifying before the Senate on Thursday.nobody should interpret anything from that except my schedule.

Quote:Gal Berger ‏@galberger18h
Me and my colleagues from Ynet and the washington post have been detained by the israeli police and idf for more than an hour near nablus!
Note that article in above post is by Ynet...

Quote:chico menashe ‏@chicomenashe1h
@galberger@lrozen we thank IDF for that.
Just an hour ago


Blasts near Iranian embassy in Lebanon capital Beirut kill at least 23

Updated 32 minutes ago
[Image: 5103584-3x2-700x467.jpg]PHOTO: Soldiers, policemen and medical personnel gather at the site of explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut.(Reuters: Hasan Shaaban)

Two explosions targeting the Iranian embassy have hit the Lebanese capital Beirut, killing at least 23 people including an Iranian diplomat, Lebanese officials have said.
Buildings in the embassy compound were damaged by the blast which Lebanon's health minister Ali Hassan Khalil said also wounded 146 people.
Cultural adviser Ibrahim Ansari was reportedly entering the embassy as the blasts took place and died of his wounds at a Beirut hospital.
Live footage from local news channels showed charred bodies on the ground as flames rose from the remains of several vehicles.
Aid workers and residents carried away some of the victims on blankets.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts.
A security source said the blasts were caused by two rockets fired on the area, in the southern part of the city, but a second security source said there was a car bomb explosion.
Lebanon has seen several explosions and street clashes in Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli linked to the two-and-a-half-year conflict in neighbouring Syria.
There was no word on who was behind the blasts, but Syrian rebels have threatened to target president Bashar al-Assad's allies in neighbouring Lebanon.
Shiite Iran has been bank-rolling Assad's fight against the mainly Sunni rebels and has given military support.
It also supports the Shiite Muslim guerrilla group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Southern Beirut is known as a Hezbollah stronghold and has been rocked with at least three other explosions this year.

Mentions Iran bankrolling Assad but doesn't mention who is bank rolling the 'rebels'
Security source tells @NOW_eng suicide bomber on motorcycle detonated small device first & was followed by car packed with a bigger bomb

@THE_47th: Syrian Min of Info Omran Zoubi: Iranian Emb explosion reeks of petrodollars.]
Sarraya El Hussain Bin Ali claims the responsibility of attacks on Iranian Embassy in beirut - Abdullah Azzam Brigades