Iran nuclear talks back on, in Geneva next week

BRUSSELS - Negotiations between Iran and Western powers on Tehran’s controversial nuclear drive will resume next week in Geneva, more than a year after they ground to a halt with sanctions having multiplied.

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 30 Nov 2010, 5:44 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:19 AM

After months of cat-and-mouse offers and counter-bids, the talks will finally restart in Switzerland, on December 6 and 7, the office of the European Union’s chief diplomat Catherine Ashton announced on Tuesday.

Iran chief negotiator Said Jalili will meet with Ashton, who will lead the international delegation, a spokesman said, in the same city where the last talks on the issue fell apart in October 2009.

“We’ve now received a response from the Iranian authorities in which they have said that Dr. Jalili has accepted Catherine Ashton’s proposal to meet in Geneva,” the spokesman said.

“Talks between Catherine Ashton and Dr. Jalili will now take place on Monday and Tuesday next week in Geneva.”

The talks are aimed at allaying longstanding Western concerns that Iran’s nuclear programme masks a weapons drive under the guise of a civilian programme, something Tehran denies.

The United States, Europe and Israel fear that Iran wants to use nuclear technology to build a bomb, but Tehran insists that its programme is a peaceful drive to produce civilian energy.

English baroness Ashton would lead the so-called “3+3” or “5+1” group of nations negotiating with Iran made up of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain) and Germany.

Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the sensitive process which can be used to make nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atom bomb.

The restrictions had “without doubt pushed Tehran back to the negotiating table,” a senior EU official said on condition of anonymity.

Disagreement over the agenda has held up a resumption of the dialogue. The world powers want the talks to focus on Iran’s uranium enrichment programme but Tehran wants a wider discussion that includes regional security issues.

“We’re also prepared to talk about other issues,” a spokeswoman for Ashton underlined, but “the main goal we were always very clear about.

“We see these talks as a starting point in a process,” stressed the spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic. “We don’t expect to solve all issues in one day.”

After Ashton first suggested Vienna, which plays host to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran proposed Istanbul instead.

Turkey, along with Brazil, agreed a nuclear-swap deal with Tehran in May, exchanging enriched uranium for fuel in Tehran scientific research.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered Iran’s atomic body in February to start refining uranium to 20 percent after an original version of the nuclear fuel swap deal drafted by the UN atomic watchdog fell through.

World powers responded on June 9 by backing new UN sanctions against Iran.

Sanctions notably ban investments in oil, gas and petrochemicals while also targeting banks, insurance, financial transactions and shipping — all of which Tehran has brushed off as having no impact.

United States President Barack Obama’s administration, while not ruling out a military option against Iran, has so far stressed sanctions and diplomacy as its preferred course for dealing with the Islamic republic’s nuclear drive.

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