11/24/2014, 00.00
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Iranian nuclear talks end today amid rumors (and hopes) of an extension

United States and Iran face last hurdles. Clearance of Iran in the international community could change the face of the Middle East, creating opportunities for peace in Syria, in the fight against the Islamic state, in Lebanese politics. The enemies of the agreement are Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Vienna (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Iran and the United States are looking for ways to overcome the difficulties in the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue, the deadline of which is scheduled for today at 24. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Iranian foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, have held meetings ahead of the deadline to smooth out differences.

The problem has been under discussion for at least 12 years: assurance that Iran's nuclear program has peaceful purposes (as stated by Tehran) and not for war (as claimed by its enemies, particularly the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia). This is why the international community has decreed an embargo on trade with Iran and financial sanctions that have put a strain on its economy.

For the past year, since Hassan Rouhani's election as president, dialogue has restarted in which Tehran has agreed to the reduction of uranium enrichment and to step up UN nuclear inspections; in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

According to rumors in Vienna the points on which there is still no agreement are one hand, the level of enrichment that Iran should reach without fully renouncing nuclear energy; on the other the speed at which the sanctions should be lifted.

The stakes are great because allowing Iran to return to peaceful economic relations with the world, could open new spaces for Western investment; change the configuration of the Middle East; transform the lives of Iranians marked for decades by the problems produced by the embargo.

One option for  today's deadline - suggested by both Iranian and US sides - is the definition of a framework agreement to be later specified for a year, effectively prolonging the negotiations.

The agreement would put an end to policies of mutual suspicion and revenge between Iran and the West, which have characterized the last 35 years, after the episode of the American embassy hostages in Tehran.

Iran's rehabilitation could open new partnerships with the international community on the Syrian conflict - in which Tehran is allied with Bashar Assad - and the fight against the Islamic State, as well as on Lebanese politics through Tehran's influence on Hezbollah.

However the opposition of Israel and Saudi Arabia is a major stumbling block. Israel - especially Benjamin Netanyahu - has made fear of Iran and the atomic bomb the glue of his electoral victories, although diplomats and UN experts ensure that Tehran is far from producing a nuclear bomb.

Saudi Arabia not fears only Iran's influence in the Islamic world: Tehran's Shiism is culturally of a higher level and more open the Wahhabi Sunnism as well as being more attentive to social problems. Riyadh also fears Iran as a competitor in the production of oil: in the case of a lifting of economic sanctions and increased relations with the international community, Tehran could increase crude oil production by reducing the share of exports of Saudi Arabia, in a time when the price of a barrel of oil is dropping down every day.

However there are those who oppose any agreement also in Iran, principally the Revolutionary Guards, who are accustomed to the conflict with the West and live from the proceeds of black market smuggling which has flourished under the embargo.


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