Bushehr nuclear power plant
Bushehr nuclear power plant AFP photo

According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran has prepared a set of proposals that it will take to a meeting in Geneva next week as its bargaining chip to see crippling sanctions lifted from the country.

As an opening position in negotiations with the P5+1 group, the newspaper has said Tehran will offer to stop enriching uranium to levels of 20% purity, a level considered close  to that needed to make nuclear weapons.

P5+1 countries are those who have been attempting to negotiate with Iran to halt its nuclear enrichment program. The group includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, US, Russia, China, France and Britain, with Germany included as well.

A Western diplomat quoted by the newspaper says the Iranians "are preparing to go to Geneva with a serious package," which he said also included, "limits on the numbers of centrifuges operating."

In addition, the newspaper said that Iran was also expected to offer to open the doors of the country's nuclear facilities to "more intrusive international inspections," as well as the closure of a facility in the city of Qom which both Israel and the US have said is being used to develop nuclear weapons.

According to the report, Tehran in return is expected to request the lifting of sanctions that have left it largely frozen out of the international financial system and isolated its oil industry.

The set of Iranian proposals as it stands, does not match the measures that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has demanded Iran make before sanctions can be lifted, which could lead to tension between Israel and the US. Netanyahu has called for a total end to enrichment.

Iran: Keen to resolve nuclear issue quickly

On Tuesday, Iran's parliament speaker said the country was serious about resolving the dispute over its nuclear program and is keen to do so  “in a short period of time.” 

“From Iran's side, I can say that we are ready,” Ali Larijani told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview from Geneva.

“If the Americans and other countries say that Iran should not develop a nuclear bomb or should not move towards that, then we can clearly show and prove that. We have no such intention. So it can be resolved in a very short period of time,” he added.

Nonetheless, Larijani said, the West must accept Iran’s right to enrich nuclear fuel for civilian purposes, as allowed under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory.

“If they want to bargain with us or if they have ulterior motives,” he said, “or maybe they want to somehow convince Iran to abandon its nuclear program, then it is going to take a long time.”

Larijani referred to the recent conciliatory remarks made by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani who has called for the lifting of international sanctions, imposed over the nuclear program, that have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy.

Rouhani, who the West touts as a “moderate cleric”, has worked to smooth relations with the West and has been somewhat successful. In an indication of the shifting mood, he spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama by phone recently, the first direct conversation between leaders of the two countries since the Iranian revolution in 1979.

On Tuesday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said that his country and Iran are taking steps toward restoring ties, two years after Britain cooled ties with Tehran, removing diplomats following an attack on its embassy.

“The important thing is that overall what [Rouhani did was approved by the Supreme Leader,” Larijani told CNN, saying that he had showed the world that Iran is “opposed to extremism.”

Ayatollah Khamanei has endorsed direct negotiations, and Larijani said that upcoming nuclear talks in Geneva will be a “very important step.”

“Right now, I have no reason to be pessimistic,” he told Amanpour. “Iran will be very serious about the talks, and Iran really wants to resolve the matter.”

Israeli leaders have expressed concern at Rouhani's overtures, suggesting that the Iranian president's speeches may cover an agenda that is not unlike his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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