Iran, world powers hold nuclear talks (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Fulya Ozerkan and Simon Sturdee 04/14/12)
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Iran and world powers held Saturday their first meeting in 15 months
hoping to ease tensions over Tehran´s nuclear programme, but with
tough talk on both sides making major progress look unlikely.
According to officials close to the negotiations between Iran and the
United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany (the P5+1),
the most that can be hoped for is an agreement to hold more detailed
discussions in a few weeks.
"Iran´s most recent response specifically said that they are prepared
to sit down and talk about the nuclear issue. For us (Saturday) is
about testing that," one envoy said.
"We don´t expect to get a lot of detail ... but it will be about
possibly meeting again in four to six weeks time if we can, when we
will get into that detail," the diplomat said on condition of
Representing Washington was Wendy Sherman, undersecretary for
political affairs. Ma Zhaoxu, assistant foreign minister, led the
Chinese delegation, while Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
headed Moscow´s team.
Also present was EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The main concern of the international community is Iran´s growing
capacity to enrich uranium, which can be used in power generation and
other peaceful uses but, when purified further, for a nuclear weapon.
Of particular worry is the formerly secret Fordo site in a mountain
bunker near the holy city of Qom, currently enriching to 20-percent
purity but which experts say could be reconfigured to produce 90-
percent weapons grade material.
Fordo´s expansion, plus a major UN atomic agency report in November
on alleged "weaponisation" efforts, have led to tighter EU and US
sanctions on Iran´s oil sector due to bite this summer and talk of
Israeli military strikes.
Highlighting the deep mistrust and the major differences to overcome,
a source close to the Iranian delegation led by Saeed Jalili said
Friday that Western comments ahead of the Istanbul talks did
not "give us much hope."
"So far the Iranian delegation finds the Western position ...
disappointing and discouraging," the source, wishing to remain
anonymous, told AFP.
Following earlier false starts, Western governments -- and in
particular US President Barack Obama as he seeks re-election this
November -- are wary of finding themselves accused of being duped by
empty Iranian promises.
Obama, who has warned against "loose talk" of war, said last month
that "both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognise that
when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a
nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."
"I think that the Israeli government recognises that, as president of
the United States, I don´t bluff."
As a result the West has stressed the need for the
Iranian "seriousness", with Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers
this week highlighting Tehran´s "persistent failure to comply with
"If Iran turns up for the meeting in the same spirit of ´Istanbul I´,
we´re not going to get very far," one P5+1 source told AFP, referring
to the last stab at talks in this Turkish city in January 2011.
US media reports meanwhile have suggested that the P5+1 want Iran to
halt enrichment of uranium to purities of 20 percent, shutter Fordo
and send Tehran´s stockpiles of enriched uranium abroad.
Iran meanwhile has promised to present "new initiatives", but
diplomats said it was unclear what these were or whether they would
be enough to convince the P5+1 that further negotiations, possibly in
Baghdad in May, would be worth it.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sounded upbeat after meeting
Jalili late Friday, saying: "We will have good news at the end of the
The world powers also want Iran to grant the International Atomic
Energy Agency greater access to ease fears that it might have covert
facilities, and to answer accusations made in the IAEA´s November
But comments from Iran, most notably from President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, underline that Tehran will not consent to anything that
infringes on its right to peaceful nuclear activities without
promises that sanctions will be lifted.
"Iran will ultimately insist upon a guarantee ... that it has the
right to enrich uranium," Mark Hibbs, analyst at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace, told AFP ahead of the talks.
"Iran´s minimum expectation from the P5+1 is that they seek Iran´s
trust by cancelling all illegal resolutions and sanctions as the
first step," hardline Iranian daily Kayhan said Saturday. (Copyright
© 2012 Agence France Presse. 04/14/12)
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