On Friday, Iran is scheduled to meet with representatives from the US, Russia, China, Great Britain, Germany, and France in Istanbul to begin talks concerning its nuclear program.
The meeting, meant to pressure Iran into giving up its aspirations for obtaining a nuclear weapon in exchange for halting sanctions against the country, would possibly allow the Islamic Republic to maintain a civilian nuclear program.
"We have agreed to launch talks in Istanbul on April 14,” a spokesperson for EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton told Reuters. “We hope that this first round will produce a conducive environment for concrete progress. We are of course aiming at a sustained process," he added.
If the first round of talks proves successful, a second round of talks will be held at a later date in Baghdad.
Irans’ Last Chance
According to US and European diplomats, Obama’s plan, which has come to be known as “Iran’s last chance,” will “demand the immediate closure and ultimate dismantling of a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain,” the New York Times reported. In addition, the plan will demand that Iran halt its uranium enrichment process and ship their stockpile of enriched uranium of 100kg at 20% out of the country.
The demands would be the opening move in the talks that aim to resolve Iran’s nuclear issue diplomatically.
Following the publication of Obama’s conditions, several Iranian officials released statements refusing to give up nuclear aspirations.
"The nuclear industry is like a locomotive that can carry other industries along with it. It is like the space industry that has raised tens of sub-industries under it and it is clear that we must continue on this path," FARS news agency quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying.
Israel: “Iran Response Good”
Following the release of the NYT report regarding Obama’s demands, Israeli sources estimated that Iran would not abandon their plan to obtain nuclear weapons.
One senior Israeli official explained, "As far as Israel is concerned, the Iranian response is good," as it shows Iran’s true intentions.
In addition, Israeli sources claimed that Iran’s rejection of Obama’s plan would force the US president to toughen sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Senior state officials also claimed that the hard-line stance Iran is taking is part of efforts to challenge Obama. "They believe that the White House does not want a conflict in an election year…If Obama sees he's being challenged, he will be forced to toughen the sanctions in an unequivocal manner," the official claimed. Another senior official believed that the Iranian rejection was a way to buy more time.
Following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Our policy on Iran has not changed. We have seen that Iran is using the talks to stall and deceive. We will follow the talks. The demands of Iran must be clear: to take away the enriched material, halt the enrichment and dismantle the facility in Qom."