Iran ready for ‘comprehensive’ talks

IRAN yesterday agreed to hold talks next month with six world powers on its latest proposals to allay concerns over its nuclear programme, in a move Washington welcomed as an “important first step”.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana spoke by telephone with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and they agreed that talks would be held on October 1 between Iran and representatives of the six powers.

“Iran is ready for a serious dialogue in October,” Jalili said.

“This morning we reached an agreement with the Iranians to hold a meeting on October 1,” Solana’s spokeswoman said.

She said the venue for the talks between Iran and the six governments – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – was still to be decided.

Washington welcomed Tehran’s agreement to talks.

“Let’s say it’s an important first step and one hopes for the best,” US secretary of energy Steven Chu toldreporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the UN atomic watchdog in Vienna.

The six powers had called for urgent talks with Iranafter it handed new proposals to their representatives.

Washington had expressed disappointment with the package, saying it was “not really responsive to our greatest concern,” but Moscow said it offered “something to dig into”.

According to a copy of the proposals obtained and published by US non-profit investigative journalism group, Pro Publica, Iran said it was prepared to hold “comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations.”

The talks would address nuclear disarmament as well as a global framework for the use of “clean nuclearenergy,” the document said, without specifically referring to Iran’s own nuclear programme. Foreign ministers of the six powers will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week to prepare for the talks with Iran, French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

They will be the first since the hotly disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a June vote that sparked Iran’s worst unrest since the 1979 revolution.

Ahmadinejad, who will himself attend the General Assembly next week, said on Sunday that Iran was ready to talk with world powers about global issues but not to negotiate over Tehran’s right to nuclear technology.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi reiterated the point last night.

“It is obvious that the Iranian people will not negotiate about their undeniable nuclear rights,” he told a news conference.

But Ghashghavi said Iran was trying to allay Western concerns that it is seeking to develop an atomic bomb under cover of its nuclear programme.

“As you saw, one of the objectives of the package is to certainly remove the concern about the nuclear issue by focusing on global disarmament and implementing a slogan that nuclear energy is for everyone, but atomic bomb for no one,” he said.

Ghashghavi said the issue of global nuclear disarmament could act as a “good basis for discussions”.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, also said Tehran was ready to discuss the issues in the package. The six powers have been pressing Iran to agree to suspend uranium enrichment, the process which produces nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

Tehran has ignored repeated UN Security Council ultimatums to halt the activity and has been punished with sanctions.


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