Breaking deadlock

The deal negotiated between Iran, Turkey and Brazil on the handling of Tehran's nuclear fuel is an improvement on the deadlock that has marked the issue for a long time. The fresh proposal is similar to an agreement arrived at last year which Iran rejected later. The new deal envisages Iran shipping 1,200 kg of low enriched uranium to Turkey, which will hold it for an year, and Russia and France supplying equivalent fuel rods of uranium, enriched to 20 per cent, to Tehran. There is a change of situation from last year, as the uranium promised to be sent to Turkey represents only half of Iran’s stocks while last year it amounted to about 75 per cent. The deal also does not put any curbs on Iran’s enrichment programme.

The US, which leads the western countries’ campaign against Iran, has rejected the deal. Both Russia and China have welcomed the deal but the US has also claimed that they would support some sanctions against Iran on the nuclear issue. Chinese and Russian positions are important because they are permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power. Iran has probably agreed to the swap deal because of the threat of sanctions. But that does not diminish the value of the deal. It shows that negotiations have a major role in finding a solution to the impasse and that countries other than those which were directly involved in the parleys can also play a useful role. It should be possible to expand the scope of the deal if the language of confrontation is toned down and diplomacy and negotiations are given a chance to pursue a solution. While Iran needs to go some more distance, the US seems to be bent on punishing Tehran, giving it no room to exercise even its legitimate right.

India has done well to welcome the deal and to distance itself from the US position. New Delhi had damaged its relations with Iran by identifying itself with the US and supporting it on issues concerning Iran, as in the IAEA vote against Tehran. But there seems to be better realisation now that India and Iran have common interests, as in Afghanistan, and therefore the mutual relationship should be independent of relations with the US. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna’s visit to the Iran has strengthened the bilateral relationship. Both countries should nurture it.

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