Iran - Arak heavy water production facility.
(photo credit: AP Photo/Fars News Agancy)
ISTANBUL — Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members sought Friday to find common ground at talks jeopardized by Teheran's refusal to discuss demands that it curb nuclear activities that could manufacture the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
Teheran and the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — plus Germany sat down together with no sign that they were ready to budge from widely differing positions revealed after a first round of talks in Geneva last month.
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While the six would like to kickstart talks focused at freezing Iran's uranium enrichment program, Teheran has repeatedly said that activity is not up for discussion. Instead, Iranian officials are pushing an agenda that covers just about everything except its nuclear program: global disarmament, Israel's suspected nuclear arsenal, and Teheran's concerns about US military bases in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
"We want to discuss the fundamental problems of global politics at Istanbul talks," said Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested any push to restrict the meeting to Iran's nuclear program would fail.
"They employed all their might and tried hard to prevent Iran from going nuclear," Iranian state TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. "But Iran went nuclear and there will be no way back."
A diplomat familiar with the talks says the six powers will seek to nudge Iran toward acknowledging the need to reduce worries that the Islamic Republic might turn its enrichment program to making weapons. He asked for anonymity because the talks are closed.
Iran came to the table warning that it was in no mood to compromise.
"Resolutions, sanctions, threats, computer virus nor even a military attack will stop uranium enrichment in Iran," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told state TV.
The enrichment program has sparked UN Security Council sanctions, been targeted by the Stuxnet malvare virus — thought to have been manufactured by Israel or the US — and has provoked the threat of military strikes from both America and Israel.
Ahead of the start of Friday's session, the diplomat said EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton, speaking on behalf of Iran's six interlocutors, would urge the Iranian side in her opening address to recognize the need to discuss international concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
Ashton, he said, would renew a 2008 offer providing Iran technical and
logistical support for peaceful nuclear activities as well as trade and
other incentives in exchange for its willingness to focus on its atomic
One development to watch for, he said, would be readiness by Iranian
chief negotiator Saeed Jalili to meet US counterpart William Burns in a
bilateral meeting. While the Iranians met several delegations at the
Geneva talks, they refused a US overture to sit down one-on-one in the