'Iran ready to renew nuclear talks with powers'

Iranian FM Salehi says Tehran prepared to reenter negotiations with P5+1 nations based on Russian "step by step" plan.

December 30, 2011 21:45
2 minute read.
Iranian FM Ali Akbar Salehi

Salehi 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that the Islamic Republic is prepared to renew talks with the P5+1 group of world powers over its controversial nuclear program, the Tehran Times reported on Friday.

Speaking with Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun in Tehran, Salehi said that Iran was prepared to reenter negotiations with the group made up of the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany based on the "step by step" plan proposed by Moscow in July. The plan calls for a gradual easing of sanctions against Iran in exchange for the Islamic Republic disclosing details about its nuclear program.

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Talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Istanbul in January foundered with Iran insisting on having what it says is its right to produce nuclear fuel recognized.

Since then, Iran has vowed to increase its enrichment activities and shift its production of higher grade fuel to an underground bunker that would be less vulnerable to a military strike.

With Israel and Washington keeping open the possibility of pre-emptive strikes on Iran to stop it getting nuclear weapons, negotiations are a possible way of avoiding what analysts say would be military action that could inflame the Middle East.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US President Barack Obama in July of Moscow's "step-by-step" approach under which Iran could address questions about its nuclear program and be rewarded with a gradual easing of sanctions.

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Iranian threat

Following his meeting with Salehi in Tehran on Thursday, the Chinese deputy foreign minister said that Beijing is against imposing further sanctions on Tehran.

Salehi's comments came amid increased tensions between Iran and the West, particularly the United States. Iran has threatened to close shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf if the West imposes sanctions on its oil exports. The US Fifth Fleet responded on Wednesday that it would not allow any disruption of traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, a strip of water separating Oman and Iran.

Also on Thursday, the US announced that it will sell $29.4 billion in fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, in a deal the White House said would help reinforce regional security in the Gulf amid mounting tension with Iran.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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