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A "face saving" formula is only way out of nuclear stalemate: expert

TEHRAN, Aug. 7 (Mehr News Agency) - Dr. John Calabrese, who teaches U.S. Foreign Policy at American University, says a "facing formula" whereby Iran retains its 'right' to uranium enrichment and the U.S. can gain some confidence that Iran is fulfilling its NPT-related commitments is the only way out of the nuclear stalemate. In an interview with the Mehr News Agency on July 30, Calabrese said there are a number of such formulas which both sides can seriously consider and adopt one of them.

To clear up all remaining ambiguities about Iran's nuclear program the IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen and Iran's Supreme National Security Council Deputy Secretary Javad Vaeedi have held two rounds of talks so far in Tehran and Vienna to draw up a modality plan to clear up the remaining ambiguities about Iran's nuclear activities. The two sides will meet again on August 20 in Tehran.

The main bone of contention between Tehran and the West is Iran's nuclear enrichment program. Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and therefore has the legal right to enrichment for civilian purposes.

The West has set suspending uranium enrichment as a precondition for resuming dialogue with Iran. The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she is ready to meet Iran's Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki if Tehran suspends its enrichment program.

Calabrese also said Iran and the U.S. have common interest in stabilizing Iraq and both sides should avoid publicly trading accusations against one another and take concrete steps to foster political reconciliation among Iraqis.

Following is an excerpt of the interview:

Q: Regarding talks between U.S. and Iran over Iraq, what could be the possible outcome of such talks for Iraq in particular and the Middle East region in general?

A: Three possible benefits might spring from this dialogue:

-- The first potential benefit relates to the immediate and longer term future of Iraq, where both the United States and Iran have a common interest in preserving that country's territorial integrity and enhancing its stability. Progress on this front, however, will require that each side make a determined effort to implement concrete steps to foster political reconciliation, to restrain militias. It will also require that the two sides avoid publicly trading accusations against one another.

-- The second potential benefit is the defusing of tension between the United States and Iran, at a time when mutual mistrust and the risk of escalation to a confrontation neither side wants is high.

-- The third potential benefit is the development of a personal-institutional "network" between the diplomats of the two countries. Especially since our two countries have had so little official interaction since the Revolution, it is necessary to build from the bottom up the kinds of professional relationships that can yield understanding and perhaps progress on other issues later on.

Q: U.S. is negotiating with North Korea, a country which conducted a nuclear test last year; however, the U.S. has set conditions for dialogue with Iran despite a confirmation by the IAEA that there is no evidence that Iran has diverted its nuclear activities toward a weapons program.

A: First a couple of words as to why the United States has followed one path

with respect to North Korea but another with respect to Iran. Please note that the Bush Administration's approach to North Korea has shifted only in the past year or so. In my humble opinion, several factors are responsible for this: (1) the October 9, 2006 North Korean nuclear test, (2) the resignations of key U.S. officials from the administration who had previously stymied all efforts to change course, (3) the VERY capable leadership of Ambassador Chris Hill, who appears to have been given great flexibility to act by Secretary Condoleezza Rice, apparently with the President's blessing, and (4) the specific terms of the February 13, 2007 Agreement, which specify steps that the two sides must take simultaneously before proceeding to the next stage.

Yes, I agree that the IAEA has not found conclusive evidence of Iran's having diverted its nuclear program to military purposes. However, Mr. ElBaradei, whom I respect immensely, has very clearly stated that there are a number of unanswered questions about the program and that Iranian officials have not been forthcoming with this information. The circumstances in which aspects of Iran's nuclear program came to light in 2002 and 2003 (e.g., activities that Iran had not reported/disclosed) eroded the trust in Iran's compliance with its NPT obligations. This gave the upper hand to those in the U.S. government who had wanted to take a tough line on Iran all along.

It is my conviction that the U.S. will not simply abandon its precondition. Nor will Iran simply accept it. The only way out of this potentially very dangerous stalemate is to find a "face saving" formula whereby Iran retains its 'right' to uranium enrichment while the U.S. (and others) can build and gain some confidence that Iran is fulfilling its NPT-related commitments. There are a number of such formulas on the table - both sides would do well to seriously consider and adopt one of them!

Q: What is your view of Iran's nuclear program?

A: I have no independent and authoritative evidence concerning Iran's nuclear program. I rely on the system that is in place and the experts who report on their findings -- Dr. ElBaradei and the IAEA team. They say that their work is not done. They also say that they need specific forms of cooperation from Iranian authorities before they can declare with a high degree of confidence that Iran's program is for peaceful purposes only.

*Dr. John Calabrese teaches U.S. Foreign Policy at American University and serves as book review editor of The Middle East Journal.

... Payvand News - 8/7/07 ... --

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