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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

EDITORIAL

Intensify diplomatic efforts with Iran

The sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program that the United States announced in December went into force on Thursday. The European Union stepped up its embargo on oil imports from Iran on Sunday. When the U.S. and the EU first announced the sanctions in December, Iran threatened to block the Hormuz straight, a key oil route. The U.S. demonstrated its power by sending an aircraft carrier through the strait. It is vital that both sides exhibit self-restraint and resolve their differences through diplomatic means.

Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) held their first talks in 15 months in Istanbul in April, followed by similar talks in Baghdad in May and in Moscow on June 18-19. But they could not reach a deal. The P5+1 group is calling on Iran to close its Fordu nuclear site and halt its 20 percent enrichment of uranium since it is easy to move from 20 percent to 90 percent — the level of enrichment that enables the building of an atomic bomb. But Iran insists that its nuclear program is for non-military purposes.

The U.S. has exempted such countries as Japan, China, the EU member countries, India, Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Taiwan and Singapore from the sanctions that ban purchases of oil from Iran. But banks will be unable to operate in the U.S. if it is determined that they have engaged in transactions with Iran's central bank to arrange for oil purchases from Iran.

In January, the EU stopped oil imports from Iran that are based on new contracts. On Sunday, it imposed a full embargo on oil imports from Iran including those based on old contracts. It is reported that Iran's oil exports in April and May have fallen by about 40 percent.

In its talks with P5+1, Iran insisted that the Western powers should end their sanctions first. The new rounds of sanctions will cause further deterioration of the Iranian economy, greatly affecting the lives of ordinary Iranian citizens.

Israel has threatened to bomb Iranian nuclear sites. Such attacks would cause turmoil in the world's oil markets. Utmost efforts must be made to prevent such a development. If Iran insists that its nuclear program is for non-military purposes, it should make it transparent. Iran and the P5+1 group start working-level talks in Istanbul on Tuesday. Both sides should continue serious diplomatic efforts to prevent the situation from developing into a grave crisis



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