01/14/2014, 00.00
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Tehran's challenges: Nuclear deal and Geneva II

The plan to dilute the stockpile of enriched-uranium will begin on 20 January. The United States will impose sanctions in case the deal is breached. Ashton is set to travel Tehran in the coming weeks. Iran could be excluded from the peace conference on Syria that opens on 22 January.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In the coming weeks, Iran will have to deal with two crucial issues. What it does will shed light on whether President Hassan Rouhani's overtures are real or not. They are the dilution of Iran's enriched-uranium stockpile and its participation at the peace conference on Syria in Geneva.

On the nuclear issue, Iran has set 20 January for the implementation of what was agreed on 24 November. According to the plan, Tehran will suspend uranium enrichment above 5 per cent within six months, not add new centrifuges to those it already has and will dilute its stockpile of 20 per cent-enriched uranium.

At the same time, Tehran will allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct daily inspections of its uranium enrichment facility in Fordow as well as monthly visits to its heavy-water reactor in Arak.

In exchange, Western countries will suspend some of the sanctions, allowing the Islamic republic to trade in gold and precious metals, develop its car industry and export oil.

However, there is still a lot of scepticism about Tehran's willingness to cooperate. Yesterday, US President Barack Obama welcomed the "concrete progress" made ​​by Iran, but acknowledged that he had "no illusions about how hard it will be to achieve this objective". If talks fail, the US can be expected to impose more sanctions.

By contrast, a positive sign towards Iran and President Rouhani has come from Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union and coordinator of the Group 5 +1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), who said that "The foundations for a coherent, robust and smooth implementation of the joint plan of action over the six-month period have been laid".

For the EU foreign policy chief, world powers will ask the United Nations' nuclear watchdog (IAEA) to verify the deal's implementation.

Confirming Europe's good relations with Iran, Ashton will visit the Islamic republic in the coming weeks, following an invitation by Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Whilst the issue of the Iranian nuclear programme appears on its way towards a resolution, notwithstanding US scepticism and Israeli opposition, there is still is a lot of uncertainty about Tehran's place in international diplomacy.

In fact, Tehran's request to be accepted as a participant at the peace conference on Syria in Geneva on 22 January has not been accepted yet. Its name is not on the list of countries invited by the United Nations.

For British Foreign Secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State and John Kerry, the Islamic republic has not yet agreed to the principles set out at the first Peace Conference in 2012, which include, among others, the recognition of a transitional government and the departure of Bashar al-Assad, who has instead received more military aid from Iran.

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