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Iran Offers 2-Month Nuke Freeze – Or Not

Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani may have offered a 2-month moratorium on uranium enrichment as a carrot to entice further talks with the European Union’s Javier Solana, according to an unnamed EU diplomat. But, while Iran’s ambassador to the UN’s IAEA, Aliasghar Soltanieh, denied any such offer was put forth, the value (and Iranian purpose) of any 2-month moratorium is already questioned.

Solana and Larijani touted the talks as definite progress. Said Solana, “The meetings … have been productive. We clarified some of the misunderstandings we had before.” Larijani echoed this in saying that “many misunderstandings had been removed.” Which ‘misunderstandings’ remain a mystery – as much a mystery as the content of Iran’s formal response to the European incentives package that these talks center upon.

While Larijani seeks a European ally in Solana, it is possible that such an offer was casually made during the talks between the two, which are face-to-face personal interactions, without the knowledge of Soltanieh and others in the Iranian diplomatic foreign services. But the question at hand, presuming the offer was made, centers around the value of a brief 2-month freeze.

As the same diplomat reporting the offer put it, “We don’t know any details about when it would begin; whether before or after negotiations with Iran. Two months is nothing.” Perhaps the details will surface in the next scheduled meeting between Larijani and Solana, due to occur in five days’ time.

Details are hard to come by in the EU’s dealings with Iran. In fact, very few details have been revealed about Iran’s formal response to the incentives package offered to the Iranian regime. Finding its way into today’s coverage of “progress” in the EU-Iran talks, the International Herald Tribune cites one European diplomat familiar with the 21-page Iranian response and calls it “convoluted,” adding that it “failed to address our real concerns and indeed the content of the incentives.”

That Iran’s ‘formal response’ failed to address the specifics of the incentives it was said to be responding to is indicative of the Iranian approach thus far. Iran employs the practice of offering formal communications holding little substance under important title for the purpose of prolonging talks, buying time and forestalling any action against it.

Israel’s head of Military Intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, said before the Israeli cabinet that he doubts that international pressure - with or without UN sanctions - will stop the Iranian march toward nuclear weapons. The Jerusalem Post noted that advised the cabinet that “the Iranians are playing for time, and the UN Security Council was acting slower than expected regarding clamping sanctions on Teheran.” Israel faces the greatest risk should Iran attain nuclear weapons.

Yet, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to assure concerned observers and the Iranians that a price will be exacted for Iranian intransigence. The Secretary of State said on CNN, “This isn’t the United States hyping a threat. This is the United States trying to build a coalition of states, all of whom know that Iranian nuclear activities are unexplained and troubling.”

Rice added, “The world is prepared to act.”

But, as demonstrated by the continuing Solana-Larijani talks in Vienna and the wide resistance to the imposition of sanctions, even among America’s allies the world is clearly not prepared to act.