Big powers offer new nuke package to Iran
World powers gather in Iraqi capital Baghdad to hold talks on Iran’s nuke drive. REUTERS photoWorld powers held talks with Iran in Baghdad yesterday in an attempt to end the decade-old Iran nuclear crisis by laying out a new package of proposals they said would be “of interest” to Tehran.
Both sides were upbeat as the meeting between Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – began. It is the second meeting since diplomacy resumed in April in Istanbul after a 15-month hiatus, during which a war of words escalated.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton laid out a new package of P5+1 proposals at the start of the talks, which were thought to include Iran suspending the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent in return for various sweeteners.
“We are putting proposals on the table that are also of interest to Iran,” Ashton’s spokesman, Michael Mann, told reporters. “There are things we can do for Iran. … We hope the Iranians will come back with a positive reaction to our proposals to deal with the concerns of the international community. ... The ball is in their court now.”
A P5+1 source said the Iranians’ response so far had been 25 minutes of “all rhetoric, rather than positive response.” Media reports said the package included a revival of previous attempts at a deal whereby Iran would ship abroad its stockpiles of enriched uranium in return for fuel for a reactor producing medical isotopes. In return, the P5+1 are expected to demand that Iran suspend what they see as the most worrying part of Tehran’s nuclear program, namely 20 percent enrichment. On May 22, however, Iran announced it was loading domestically produced, 20 percent enriched uranium fuel into reactors.
Iran hopes for ‘good news’ soon
The capability to enrich to that level has raised fears in much of the international community that Iran could relatively quickly refine uranium to 90 percent purity, the level required for a nuclear weapon, if it decided to. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi expressed cautious optimism while speaking to reporters in Tehran. “The ideas fielded to us speak of the fact that the other side would like to make Baghdad a success. We hope that in a day or two we can bring good news.” Salehi also warned that Iran would not bow to pressure. “Their policies of pressure and intimidation are futile. They have to adopt policies to show goodwill to solve this issue.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow that Iran was “ready to agree on concrete
In a possible sign of a new Iranian willingness to address concerns about its atomic ambitions, the U.N. nuclear supervisor said May 22 that he expected to sign a deal soon to unblock an investigation into suspected work on atom bombs. However, Western reaction has been circumspect.
Ashton’s spokesman played down expectations of a dramatic breakthrough, saying the Baghdad talks were part of what would have to be a lengthy process. “This is the second meeting. Istanbul kicked off the process [in mid-April] of discussions. Now we’re getting on to the real substance of the matter,” Mann said. “We are keen to get a move on, but these things can’t be solved overnight.”