Iran seeks talks after its nuclear boasts

Iran seeks talks after its nuclear boasts

Iran yesterday expressed hopes of reviving moribund talks with world powers, a day after the Islamic republic unveiled what it described as major progress in its controversial nuclear program despite severe Western and U.N. sanctions.

“We have always welcomed the principle of negotiations and we believe that, with a positive approach and spirit of cooperation, there can be a step forward in these negotiations,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. Tehran sent a letter confirming its readiness to discuss resuming negotiations in response to an Oct. 2011 offer that was made by EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton. A spokeswoman for Ashton confirmed receipt of the letter on Feb. 15, saying she was evaluating it and would consult with the P5+1 group on a response.

Hyped news
Iran’s tardy reply to Ashton appeared to be linked to the timing of its nuclear announcements also made on Feb. 15. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wearing a white coat, oversaw what was described on state television as Iran’s first domestically produced, 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel for Tehran’s research reactor. And he ordered Iran to “go build” four more nuclear research reactors, Agence France-Presse reported.

But Washington was quick to dismiss the announcements as “hyped” and “not big news.” The Iranians have for months been boasting of progress, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, but they are in fact “many, many months behind” their own calendars.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli state radio that the Iranians were “boasting of successes they have not achieved,” even though he admitted they “are continuing to progress” in the nuclear field. “The Iranians want to give the impression they are more advanced to create the impression they have passed the ‘point of no return,’ which is not true,” he said.