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Obama victory opens negotiation window with Iran

Last month the White House said the option of bilateral talks with Iran, with whom Washington has not had diplomatic relations for three decades, was under consideration.

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November 8, 2012 8:54 by



The re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama could create an opportunity for new negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme as sanctions pile economic pressure on its theocratic leaders.

With no more elections to fight, Obama, who has so far resisted calls in the United States and Israel for military action against Iran, appears free to pursue a diplomatic settlement while wielding the threat of yet heavier commercial penalties if Tehran does not bend.

“Obama has prepared the ground very carefully and has the option of trying to cut some kind of a deal on the nuclear issue, and that’s worth a lot to him,” said Gary Sick, an Iran expert and former U.S. national security official.

Last month the White House said the option of bilateral talks with Iran, with whom Washington has not had diplomatic relations for three decades, was under consideration.

Western powers and Israel accuse Iran of secretly preparing to build nuclear weapons while working on a programme that Tehran insists is purely designed for civil purposes.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in a television interview on Wednesday that the Jewish state would not oppose talks between the United States and Iran within strict parameters.

“If the U.S. decides to talk with Iran over a limited and relatively short period only in order to ascertain if it is possible to get it to stop its nuclear programme, we will have nothing to say about this,” Barak told Channel 10.

“But if there is an attempt (by Iran) to drag (the talks) out over many months or a year, then it could be detrimental and it could lead to a form of tension,” he added.

Tehran’s reaction to Obama’s re-election was predictably critical and warned that Washington should not expect to establish a new relationship with Tehran quickly: “After all this pressure and crimes against the people of Iran, relations with America cannot be possible overnight, and Americans should not think they can hold our nation to ransom by coming to the negotiating table,” judiciary head Sadeq Larijani said.

But there are indications Iran’s leadership views Obama’s continued presence as preferable to the arrival of Romney, who some saw as more likely to cooperate with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a possible military strike on Iran.

“Obama’s people are a known quantity. Iran’s leaders know Obama has held the Israelis back from launching a military attack,” said Scott Lucas of the EA Worldview news website, which specialises in covering Iran. “They didn’t know what they were getting with Romney, and they were a little fearful.”

In a revealing speech in Tehran last week, Iran’s former envoy to Paris and the United Nations, Sadeq Kharrazi, praised Obama for his efforts in “reducing tensions between Islam and the West” and trying to “move closer to Iran”.



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