World powers and Iran start nuclear talks in Baghdad

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi condemns sanctions, but remains hopeful for "good news" from talks; Russia says Iran "ready to seek agreement on concrete actions."

May 23, 2012 13:06
3 minute read.
Iran nuclear talks in Istanbul

Iran nuclear talks in Istanbul 370 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Tolga Adanali/Pool)


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BAGHDAD - World powers and Iran began negotiations in Baghdad on Wednesday, aiming to make progress towards resolving a dispute over Tehran's nuclear program, diplomats said.

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Iran wants to win reprieve from economic sanctions as a result of the talks, while the six global powers -- United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany -- hope to win concessions over its uranium enrichment efforts they suspect are meant to produce weapons.

"They have just gone into the first plenary," said one Western official.

Diplomats have said the Baghdad round of talks, only the second since diplomacy resumed in April after more than a year, may yield initial concessions from all sides. But a breakthrough could still be far off.

Iran has so far insisted on a its right to enrich uranium under international law and said its work serves peaceful purposes such as power generation and medical treatment only.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Wednesday that any efforts by Western powers to put pressure on Iran at talks in Baghdad over its nuclear program would be futile.

Salehi told a news conference in Tehran: "Their (Western powers') policies of pressure and intimidation are futile. They have to adopt policies to show goodwill to solve this issue.

"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."

The United States and its allies suspect Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability and have imposed tough sanctions on Iran's energy and financial sectors to try to force it to compromise and open up its activities to scrutiny.

Iran has long stated that its activities are purely peaceful however, and has said it wants Wednesday's meeting to address the issue of sanctions with a view to rolling some of them back.

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Salehi on Wednesday criticized the US Congress for seeking to impose further sanctions on Iran: "The US Congress doesn't relay a good message and it might speak of the fact that America is not ready to show goodwill," he said.

"In my opinion this is a strategic mistake. I hope sooner rather than later they reach a far sighted understanding before problems are created."

European Union members states are set to introduce a total embargo of Iranian crude oil purchases in July. Diplomats say that potentially persuasive measure will not be cancelled unless Tehran takes substantial and demonstrative steps to curb its nuclear activities.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Iran appears ready for serious discussion of concrete steps to resolve the international standoff over its nuclear program, and added that potential new sanctions approved by the US Senate would undermine efforts to reach agreement with Iran.

He said that in expert-level meetings preparing for the talks, "we got the clear impression ... that the Iranian side is ready to seek agreement on concrete actions" under a "step-by-step" process in which it would take measures to address concerns it could be seeking nuclear weapons in return for the gradual removal of sanctions.

The proposed US sanctions "are aimed not at combating possible risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction but in essence at the economic strangulation of Iran," he said.

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