Iran will not discuss atom enrichment at next talks (REUTERS) By David Brunnstrom and Parisa Hafezi GENEVA, SWITZERLAND 12/07/10 10:13am EST)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Iran and major powers agreed on Tuesday to meet again
next month in their dispute over Tehran´s nuclear program, but the
chief Iranian negotiator said there could be no discussion of any
halt to uranium enrichment.
The agreement to reconvene in Turkey in late January, after two days
of talks in Geneva this week, was as much as either side had expected
from their first meeting in over a year on the intractable nuclear
Iran has insisted all along that it has the right to enrich uranium
for peaceful electricity generation and will never give into pressure
and abandon that right.
Iran had also said it would not discuss enrichment in Geneva, but
Western diplomats said a range of issues including the nuclear
dispute were tackled at this week´s talks.
"I am announcing openly and clearly that Iran will not discuss a
uranium enrichment halt in the next meeting in Istanbul with major
powers," chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili told a news conference.
Iran rejects Western suspicions that its nuclear program is a cover
for acquiring an atomic bomb.
The enrichment issue remains the major obstacle to resolving a
dispute which has the potential to ignite a major conflict in the
Middle East. Enriched uranium can be used both in power stations and,
when refined to a much higher degree, in nuclear bombs.
Repeated U.N. Security Council resolutions demand Iran suspend
enrichment and allow tougher U.N. inspections of its atomic work as a
way of convincing the world it is not secretly trying to develop a
nuclear weapons capability.
That demand remains the position of the six powers, a senior U.S.
administration official said in Geneva after the talks which he
described as "difficult and candid."
The U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said the United States
did not have a formal bilateral meeting with Iran, but had had
opportunities to communicate its main points.
"We had several informal interactions which were useful to reinforce
our main concerns," the official told reporters.
A revised version of a nuclear fuel swap, agreed and then later
rejected by Iran last year, could be a way to build confidence
between the two sides, the official said.
But analysts say Iran´s hardline leaders, who use the nuclear program
to rally nationalist support and distract from domestic problems, are
unlikely ever to agree to back down on the main issue of enrichment.
"This government has obviously linked the development of the nuclear
program so closely to its own legitimacy that it would be difficult
for them to backtrack on it," said Gala Riani of the IHS Global
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, representing the six
powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and
Germany -- told a news conference: "We and Iran agreed to a
continuation of these talks in late January in Istanbul where we plan
to discuss practical ideas and ways of cooperating toward resolution
of our core concerns about the nuclear issue."
Jalili said that was the only thing agreed in Geneva.
"I hope the other party remains committed to our agreement at the
meeting ... as long as they remain committed then the talks can go
ahead," Jalili said.
Tehran would not negotiate under pressure, he said.
"I wouldn´t describe the talks we´ve had today as fruitful, but it´s
a start," said an EU official. "A problem like this is not going to
be solved in two days; it´s not an easy problem."
"Given the history you can´t be optimistic, but there´s no point in
doing these things with the objective of failure," the official
said. "The problem is that the level of trust is about as low as it
could get anywhere outside of North Korea."
In a speech in Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the
powers to publicly declare Iran´s national "rights," saying they
would have "nothing but remorse" if they failed to do so.
Iran, which announced a breakthrough in its nuclear technology on the
eve of the talks, has been under increasing pressure from sanctions
imposed by the West.
It dismisses the impact of such penalties, saying trade and other
sanctions imposed since the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the
U.S.-backed shah have made the country stronger.
(Additional reporting by Ramin Mostafavi and Robin Pomeroy in Tehran,
Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Writing by
Jonathan Lynn and Jon Hemming; Editing Mark Trevelyan) (© Reuters
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