British diplomat: Lebanon not Tunisia could influence the Iranian negotiations

Dina Ezzat , Monday 24 Jan 2011

“Iran would be looking at what is happening to Lebanon and thinking ‘how we could use this?’” said Jon Davies, the Iran-Coordinator at the British Foreign Office to Ahram Online

Speaking in Cairo on Monday evening following his participation in the 5+1 talks with Iran in Istanbul, John Davies seemed of the opinion that the fate of the negotiations between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear programme is still largely undecided. However, he seemed commitment to a "negotiated solution".

Held on Friday and Saturday, the Istanbul talks offered no sign of a real breakthrough, according to Davies. The 5+1, he added, had "some suggestions to make the Iranian nuclear programme more transparent,” as demanded by the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA).

According to the British diplomat, the 5+1 also demanded Iran consider “an updated version (of a previous offer) on the exchange of (nuclear) fuel,” between Iran and another country.

The Iranians, according to Davies, made any acceptance of such proposals dependent on the 5+1 talks’ unqualified acceptance of "Iran's right to (develop and possess) the full nuclear cycle," and also on the suspension of any attempt to advance further UN Security Council resolutions against or sanctions on Iran.

Despite the state of "no progress" that Davies reported, there was some agreement, judging by his statements made to a limited group of journalists at the residence of the British Ambassador in Cairo, that more talks between the 5+1 and Iran are going to take place further down the line. He specified that no agreement has yet been made on another meeting, "but we are still open".

Meanwhile, the British diplomat argued that Iran's nuclear plans – which he suggested go way beyond the peaceful uses Tehran claims for its nuclear programme – are designed to give the Islamic Republic of Iran an edge within the region.

Davies, however, acknowledged that a solution between Iran and the West could help promote stability in the region.

If an agreement is reached on the Iranian nuclear issue there will be more room for the global promotion of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and even to approach the Israeli nuclear question.

"What Iran is doing is taking pressure off (Israel)," Davies said. He added that it is also not constructive for the planned international meeting next year to discuss the declaration of the Middle East as a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

Davies shared no assessment of what Israel "might or might not do – including reference to possible use of military force." He reiterated, however, that "it would be a bad thing," if Israel were to pursue a military strike against Iran's nuclear facility.

The Iran Coordinator at the UK Foreign Office qualified the recent developments in Tunisia as "fascinating".

He said that unlike Lebanon, where a possible war scenario could have an impact on the negotiations, the Tunisian developments are unlikely to affect the course of talks between the West and Iran.

Nor did Davies expect a similar turn of events in Iran to those that took place in Tunisia over the past few weeks: "Don't expect it in Iran; the Iranians almost did (it) two years ago but Iranian opposition is (currently) well held-down".

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