Iran Begins Nuclear Talks With Six Nations (NY) TIMES) By STEVEN ERLANGER ISTANBUL, TURKEY 04/14/12)
NEW YORK TIMES
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ISTANBUL — Talks between Iran and six world powers about the aims of
its nuclear-enrichment program began on Saturday morning with a
plenary session of all parties. European and American officials
suggested that a serious commitment from Iran to negotiate may be
enough to continue the talks at another round in late May, possibly
in Baghdad, as Iran has suggested.
“I hope what we will see today is the beginnings of a sustained
process,” said Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy
chief who is chairing the meeting. The talks, she said, are “to find
ways in which we can build confidence between us and ways in which we
can demonstrate that Iran is moving away from a nuclear weapons
program.” But much depends, she said, “on what Iran is putting on the
Iran agreed to resume these talks with six major world powers — the
five permanent members of the United Nationsl Security Council, plus
Germany — after more than a year without any negotiations, raising
hopes in the West that Tehran might be ready to strike a deal over
its nuclear program, which it denies has any military intent.
The six do not always agree among themselves about tactics, but do
want to ensure that Iran will not become a nuclear-weapons-capable
state and that it will comply with its requirements under the Non-
Proliferation Treaty to open its facilities to complete inspections
by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The diplomats suggested that a positive first step would be for
Tehran to agree to allow the inspectors to visit all nuclear sites,
including those Iran refused to show them in February. That would
help restore confidence and could be enough by itself to open the way
to further talks, diplomats said. Iran has fueled Western suspicious
by denying the atomic energy agency access to the Parchin military
base near Tehran, where the agency says Iran may have tested
explosives for warhead research.
If the talks ultimately fail, both the United States and Israel have
refused to rule out military action in order to stop Iran’s steady
enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity, just a few technical
steps from bomb-grade.
The talks opened informally Friday evening with a dinner between the
chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and the chairman of the six
powers, Catherine Ashton, the foreign-policy chief of the European
Union. The two were to discuss the shape of Saturday’s formal
negotiations, diplomats said. Those will open with a plenary session
involving all delegates from 10 a.m. until lunch. What happens later
on Saturday has not yet been determined, the officials said,
suggesting that the plenary session could resume or there could be
smaller meetings or bilateral sessions. While the talks are scheduled
to end on Saturday, they could go into Sunday, the diplomats said.
On Friday, Iran’s deputy negotiator, Ali Baqeri, held separate talks
with senior Chinese and Russian officials in Istanbul, and the six
powers met among themselves to coordinate tactics. Russia and China
have been the most reluctant of the six to press for further
sanctions on Iran, and Russia’s chief negotiator, Sergei Rybakov,
deputy foreign minister, has urged a more moderate tone with Iran.
“We really need to find a middle course,” he told reporters on
Friday. “The negotiations are about renewing confidence” and “the
final destination in the near future” of the talks should be to
remove sanctions against Iran.
Western diplomats have expressed cautious optimism that Iran,
struggling under the vise of new sanctions on its oil exports and
central bank, is ready to discuss limits on its nuclear program,
especially on its enrichment to 20 percent. But the diplomats also
cautioned against any specific deal here that would produce a lifting
of any sanctions, other than an agreement that the talks are serious
and substantive enough to continue them.
“I don’t think they would come if they weren’t serious,” one Western
diplomat said, adding that a second meeting could take place by the
end of May.
But Iran’s domestic media cited sources close to Iran’s delegation as
saying Tehran saw “few encouraging points” in the remarks of American
and European officials. In Washington on Thursday, G-8 foreign
ministers said in a statement: “Iran’s persistent failure to comply
with its obligations... and to meet the requirements of the IAEA
Board of Governors resolutions is a cause of urgent concern.”
Iran says it is coming with new proposals of its own, and says it
will not allow any preconditions for the talks.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy White House national security adviser, said on
Air Force One that Washington wanted a “positive environment” in the
talks with Tehran showing “seriousness” about moving forward with
dialogue, news agencies reported.
“I think nobody expects to resolve all differences in one meeting,
but what we want is a positive environment where the Iranian
government demonstrates its seriousness and its commitment to
pursuing serious negotiations,” he said. The Iranians needed to show
how they could “build confidence” with the international community by
living up to commitments to disclose details of what the West
believes is a nuclear weapons program. “If they do, we would
certainly explore reciprocal actions that are responsive to concrete
steps by the Iranians,” Mr. Rhodes said.
Washington is eager to take some of the urgency out of the Iranian
confrontation and to reassure Israel that there is time for diplomacy
and sanctions to work. In particular, in the next few months,
Washington would like to ensure that Iran stops enriching uranium to
20 percent, ships out its existing stocks and shuts down or
downgrades its enrichment site at Fordo, which, because it is built
inside a mountain, would be difficult to bomb.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the key figure
behind the scenes and authorized Mr. Jalili to resume the talks as
his representative, a significant signal to the West. Ayatollah
Khamenei has recently repeated his fatwa against acquiring nuclear
weapons, saying that they are against Islam, which some Western
experts see as a way to prepare the Iranian people for any
concessions Tehran makes in these talks and those that may follow.
The fatwa, however, does not address the issue of nuclear capability
and could be changed if the context changes — much as a legal
decision might. (Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company 04/14/12)
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