Iran ready for nuclear talks after Nov. 10
BRUSSELS: Iran is ready to discuss its nuclear programme with the six world powers any time after Nov.10, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday, the first such talks since late 2009.
Ashton said she had received a letter from Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in which he agreed to meet “in a place and on a date convenient to both sides” after Nov. 10.
Earlier this month, Ashton invited Jalili to hold three days of talks in Vienna from Nov. 15 to 17.
“Dr Jalili … is agreeable to begin discussions after Nov.10 and wants to agree the time and place. I think this is a very significant move,” she told reporters at an EU summit.
In Tehran, Iran’s Press TV confirmed the letter and referred to previously stated conditions such as “clarification on Israel’s ambiguous nuclear programme”. Israel is widely believed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East.
An EU diplomat said the meeting with Iran might now take place in Geneva rather than Vienna and the aim was for three days of talks with “everything on the table”, including broad discussion of Iran’s nuclear activities.
“We see this all as a very positive sign, there is a strong sense of optimism.” the diplomat said.
Since the six negotiating powers — the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany — last sat down with Iran, the United Nations, the United States and the EU have imposed new sanctions against Tehran to put pressure on it to return to talks. Iran has dismissed the effects of the measures.
The West believes Iran’s nuclear energy programme is designed to develop nuclear weapons. Iran, a major oil producer, says it is a civilian programme intended to generate electricity.
The six world powers want Iran to curb its enrichment work, which can have both civilian and military uses.
Iran has ruled this out and is showing no sign of backing down in the eight-year-old dispute which has the potential to set off a regional arms race and cause a Middle East conflict.
“The Iranians have been happy to meet in the past and then backtrack,” one Western diplomat said in Vienna, where the U.N. nuclear agency is based.
In Brussels, the EU diplomat said he believed the Iranians had agreed to meet partly because of the commercial and economic consequences of the latest sanctions.
However, Ian Anthony of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said North Korea, which was much weaker than Iran in terms of its economy and international connections, had conceded nothing because of sanctions.
“If sanctions haven’t been effective against North Korea there must at least be a question over whether they are going to be effective against Iran,” he said.
Tehran has seemed keener on resuming talks on a stalled plan for it to send low-enriched uranium abroad and receive higher-grade fuel for a medical research reactor in return.
Western diplomats say that, even if the fuel exchange idea were revived, it would not resolve wider concerns about Iran’s nuclear plans and Iran must agree to discuss those as well.
The US State Department said this week Washington and European governments were preparing a new offer to Iran on such a swap that would include tougher conditions than those Tehran rejected last year. – Reuters