• France lays down 4 demands for interim deal with Iran

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    JERUSALEM: French President Francois Hollande on Sunday (Monday in Manila) laid out four demands, which must be in place for an agreement with Iran to successfully rein in its nuclear program.

    “France is in favor of an interim agreement but on the basis of four points,” he said at a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netan-yahu in Jerusalem.

    “The first demand: put all the Iranian nuclear installations under international supervi-sion, right now. Second point: suspend enrichment to 20 percent. Thirdly: to reduce the existing stock.

    “And finally, to halt construction of the Arak [heavy water]plant. These are the points which for us are essential to guarantee any agreement,” Hollande said.

    His remarks were made on the eve of a new round of talks in Geneva between world powers and Iran seeking to reach an agreement to scale back Tehran’s contested nuclear program.

    A previous round of talks ended on November 10 without agreement, with France taking a tougher stance than its Western partners in a move which won glowing praise in Israel.

    Standing next to Hollande, Netanyahu said he was “gravely concerned” that attempts to sign a deal would succeed.

    “I’m concerned, gravely concerned, that this deal will go through and in one stroke of the pen, it will reduce the sanctions on Iran—sanctions that took years to put in place—and in return for this, Iran gives practically nothing,” Netanyahu said.

    “It’s clear that this agreement is good only for Iran and that it’s really bad for the rest of the world,” he said. “Iran’s dream deal is the world’s nightmare.”

    Iran admitted that nuclear talks with world powers this week will be “difficult,” as Israel boosted its campaign against a possible deal that would bring Tehran some sanctions relief.

    Negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1—Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany—restart in Geneva on Wednesday after the last round failed to seal a deal.

    Top diplomats insisted they were closing in on an interim agreement that would see Iran curb or freeze parts of its nuclear program for some relief from crippling sanctions.

    But senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi, who is also deputy foreign minister, said “the next round of nuclear talks will be difficult,” according to remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency.

    “No agreement will be reached without securing the rights of the Iranian nation” on its nuclear program and ura-nium enrichment, he added.

    Israel and the West suspect Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its uranium enrichment program, which Tehran insists is entirely peaceful.

    Israel has argued that Wes-tern powers can get a better deal if they maintain or even ratchet up the sanctions, which have exacted a heavy toll on Iran’s economy.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who welcomed French President Francois Hollande to Israel on Sunday, said he would also discuss the matter with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem on Friday.

    “I hope we’ll be able to convince our friends this week and in the following days to get a much better deal. It can be achieved,” he said in a statement.

    “Continuing to apply pressure [on Iran]and even increasing it can yield a much better diplo-matic result.”

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate elected earlier this year, has vowed to try to reassure the West over Iran’s program in order to secure the lifting of the international sanctions.

    Iran has insisted, however, that it has the right to enrich uranium on its soil, a key sticking point in previous rounds of talks going back more than a decade.

    AFP

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