• World powers agree to lay off Iran, for now

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    VIENNA: Iran is expected to enjoy a rare let-up in pressure at a United Nations (UN) atomic agency meeting starting Monday, as Tehran’s new government and world powers prepare a fresh diplomatic push.

    Russia meanwhile wants the gathering of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) 35-nation board of governors to address the risk that possible US air strikes might hit a small nuclear reactor in Syria.

    “Things have changed on the ground in Iran. We have a new government, a new president and there has been a change in tone from the Iranian government, which we recognize and welcome,” one senior Western envoy said.

    “By November, there will have been another round of negotiations with the IAEA, we may well have another round of E3+3 talks, and so we will see whether these words have been translated into anything more concrete.”

    The quarterly meetings of the IAEA’s board usually see Iran taken to task over its nuclear program, which many countries, not only in the West, fear is aimed at getting atomic weapons, despite Iranian denials.

    The agency’s latest regular report on Iran last month showed, yet again, that Tehran is defiantly expanding its activities despite a string of UN Security Council and IAEA board resolutions demanding a suspension.

    Several rounds of UN sanctions have been imposed on Iran. Additional EU and US restrictions last year began targeting its oil sector and banks.

    The United States and Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared country with nuclear weapons, have refused to rule out bombing the Gulf country.

    Numerous diplomatic initiatives over the past decade, including the last meeting between Iran and the six permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1 or E3+3) in Kazakhstan in April, have failed.

    The election in June of Hassan Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator, as Iran’s new president to replace the more hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has however created some hope that a new push might bear fruit.

    AFP

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